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Friday, June 5, 2009

xxx
I'm Paul Iorio, and here's my regular column,
The Daily Digression, which covers pop culture and beyond...


PAUL'S OTHER WEBSITES:
- My homepage is at paulliorio.blogspot.com
- My satire site is at ioriosatire.blogspot.com
- My main music site (w/lyrics) pauliorio.blogspot.com
- MP3s of my songs: myspace.com/paulioriosongs
- Audio excerpts of Paul's interviews with pop culture icons
myspace.com/pauliorioo & myspace.com/paulioriooo

All posted text on this website written solely by Paul Iorio.


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T A B O O
paul iorio









The Last Word on the Remastered
"Exile on Main Street"


Remastered or unremastered, "Exile on Main Street" is

the Rolling Stones's best album, or (at the very least)

is tied with "Sticky Fingers" as their greatest. It's

hard to make a case for ranking any of the others

at number one, as strong as some of the rest are.



The competition (besides "Sticky Fingers")? "Some Girls,"

their biggest-seller to date, a vibrant retort to the punks,

but a bit too unvariegated. "Let It Bleed," which features

some of their best songs, though many tracks go on too long

and need an editor. "Beggar's Banquet" is overrated (the

arrangement of its strongest track, "Sympathy for the Devil, "

is not nearly as effective as the one on "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out").

And, yes, the American edition of "Between the Buttons" is

truly underrated (especially vinyl side two), but it still

doesn't rise all the way to the top.



"Exile" doesn't include the band's greatest songs, but

it's their best CD. Conversely, the Stones albums with

their best songs ("Out of Our Heads," "Let it Bleed," etc.)

aren't their greatest collections.



"Exile" is the white album of a band that never created

an "Abbey Road." And it's also their first disc

after the competition in the music biz had fully

shifted from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin, though there is

with no discernible concession to the Zeppelin sound. (It's funny

they felt more challenged by the punks in '78 than by Zep

in '72. Of course, it would be hard to imagine Mick

Jagger singing about "the mystery of the quotient" with

a straight face. Or wearing a cross unironically. That's why

we love 'im!)




The newly remastered "Exile," released a few months ago, has

better sonic emphasis and improved audio clarity on most tracks.

Percussion is higher in the mix on several cuts ("Shake Your Hips,"

"Turd on the Run" and "Sweet Black Angel," which almost sound

as if they were produced by Mickey Most, the master of putting

background sound in the foreground to hooky effect).



More significantly, the gospel-style background vocals on

several tunes, which give this disc a flavor like no

other Stones album, are higher in the mix, for the most part.

(The Stones had experimented, less successfully, with choral

vocals or gospel choirs before, most notably on "Salt of

the Earth," which used the Watts Street Gospel Choir; and

on "You Can't Always Get What You Want," which in retrospect

probably should have been choirless.)



The remastering most benefits "Rocks Off," which now takes

off like a tuned-up Ferrari; "Lovin' Cup," animated by Nicky

Hopkins's piano playing as never before; "Sweet Virginia," where

the hitting of guitar strings creates cross-rhythms; and

"Casino Boogie," where Bill Wyman's bass playing has real geometry.


But the best songs on the album -- "All Down the Line,"

"Torn and Frayed" and "Lovin Cup" -- don't really gain

much from the re-mix. In fact, I actually prefer the un-remixed

version of "All Down the Line," because that brilliant drum

roll at the beginning is dirtier and gives you the sense

there's a real drum in the room on the old version. And

"Soul Survivor"'s main riff, cleaned up, now sounds exactly

like "It Must Be Hell," a later Stones obscurity.




Included in the remastered "Exile" set is a separate disc

of unreleased material, which, taken as a free-standing

Stones album, sort of ranks with "Metamorphosis." The best

of "Exile"'s un-issued stuff, by far, is "Good Time Women," which

appears to be an early version of "Tumblin' Dice" that, with a

few tweaks, wouldn't sound at all like "Tumblin' Dice"; and

"Plundered My Soul," which grows on you, though Jagger probably

should've taken another try at the vocal. (There's also

some revealing ambient noise that shows the mood of

the sessions; check out the inadvertently-recorded

chuckling in the background of "I'm Not Signifying,"

at the three-minute, 24-second mark.)



All told, the re-issue is, if nothing else, a great

excuse to re-discover "Exile." The joys are still

there, most of 'em enhanced. "Happy" still sounds

like someone lighting the fuse of a bottle rocket.

"Torn and Frayed" still sounds as crisp as a mid-autumn

day. "Ventilator Blues" conjures an image of sci-fi

invaders. "Just Wanna See His Face" glides by like

a reverb dream.


And Charlie Watts proves he may well be the greatest

drummer since the invention of the drum, when ever that was.


If I were the Stones, I'd tinker with "Good Time Women," use it

as the basis for something brand new.


But I digress. Paul

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stealinmedication.vox.com





I'm Paul Iorio, an arts & entertainment writer whose satire and humor has been published in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Details magazine, Spy magazine and elsewhere.
Here is a collection of my satire.


By the way, my non-satirical journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Toronto Star, Newsday, The Village Voice, Spy magazine, Details magazine, New Times, the online edition of Playboy magazine, Cash Box magazine and other publications.


All posted text on this website written solely by Paul Iorio.

CONTACT: pliorio@aol.com.
___________________________________________

-
And now, without further adieu, here are

some of Paul Iorio's published satire and humor

(along with a few web exclusives!).

* * * * * *

But first, the obligat0ry Table of Contents:



--




SAMPLES OF PAUL IORIO'S PUBLISHED SATIRE AND HUMOR

(ALONG WITH A FEW WEB EXCLUSIVES)

* * *

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. The Chicago Tribune: A satiric piece on Katie Couric. (I'm really grateful that my editor got the joke and ran the story, because readers seemed to truly enjoy this one.) 2006.

2. Details Magazine: A controversial satiric piece about organized religion called "Choosing My Religion," in which I actually converted to the world's great (and not-so-great) religions -- all of them! Published in October 1994.

3. Los Angeles New Times: Cover feature on comedian Richard Pryor that includes my own eyewitness account of Pryor's last full-length concert ever. I'm still the only journalist anywhere to have ever written about it. (New Times's editing, which was minor (and counter-productive) to begin with, has been completely deleted here.)

4. WEB EXCLUSIVE: Little-Known Popes in Papal History. Published here for the first time. 2007.

5. Spy Magazine: The popular "Dylan-o-Matic," which presents a method by which anyone can create their own Bob Dylan lyrics. It's still circulated on the Internet, even though it was published in the pre-Internet era by a publication that is (alas) now defunct. From 1992. It can be found by cutting and pasting this link: http://groups.google.com/group/rec.music.dylan/browse_thread/thread/51cfbf16a11d33f9/b1b81d3e87492fae?lnk=st&q=&rnum=1&hl=en#b1b81d3e87492fae. I've also included a scan of the article here.

6. THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: The Paranoid Movie Game. A scan is included below. Conceived, written and designed by me.


7. SPY MAGAZINE: The Disneyfication of America. Satire (and some serious investigative reporting) on All Things Disney (including reportage about the creation of America's first Disney town, Celebration, which has since become a real place). The last half includes an all-too-real (and funny) conversation with someone at Disney about planning a Disney wedding.

8. WEB EXCLUSIVE -- My Faux Interview with Osama bin Laden. March 2007.

9. New York Times: A satiric piece on How Not to Blow Your Oscar Speech. (Nicely improved by an editor who rightly deleted a speculative section of the piece!) 1995.

10. EXCLUSIVE ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW WITH WOODY ALLEN. Web exclusive.

11. New York Newsday -- The Recycling of Woody Allen. (Note: This was wholly my piece, from idea to execution, and bears my sole byline, though in the print edition there is a nearby byline of another writer, in larger type, referring to other articles adjacent to mine, yet that other byline sort of makes it look like this was a co-written or co-researched piece, which it was not.)

12. San Francisco Chronicle: Profile of Dick Cavett.

13. SPY MAGAZINE -- Why It's Not So Smart To Be Smart Anymore. Humorous (but solid) investigative reporting.

14. PUBLISHED HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME -- "The Poetry of Borat Sagdiyev" -- Who knew he was a poet, too? 2007.

15. EAST COAST ROCKER: Review of performances by Tracy Chapman.

16. THE NEW YORK TIMES -- A Jack Nicholson Quiz.


17. "THE BUZZ," AN ORIGINAL FEATURE FILM SCREENPLAY BY PAUL IORIO. This is a fictionalized story of a non-fiction murder case that I solved in 1990 (see resume). "60 Minutes" and "The Village Voice" were both interested in doing a story based on my findings at the time -- until key sources became too afraid to talk on the record. Ultimately, with so many sources off the record, I found the only way I could tell the tale was to create this fictionalized version.

By the way, the screenplay is currently an inactive project business-wise (meaning that I'm not trying to sell it anymore), so there is of course no conflict of interest in my writing about movies for various publications (the screenplay was written before I reported about movies professionally).

Copyright 1995. I started writing it in 1990, initially calling it "Number One Bullet," but wrote most of it in '94 and '95. I also revised it in '97 and further revised it in 2003, and that latest version is presented here.


Some of the articles are presented here in original manuscript or updated versions.

All writing, reporting and research in all stories presented here by Paul Iorio (and there were no co-bylines on any of these pieces). All research in all Q&As by Paul Iorio. (Resume follows at the end.)

Here are the stories!

(By the way, please be wary of editors who claim to have contributed any writing or reporting to these pieces. They didn't. As the cliche goes, success has many fathers...)_

Everybody quoted in all stories spoke on the record and on audiotape.

__________________________________________________

And Now....

A COUPLE HUNDRED PAGES OF

PAUL IORIO'S PUBLISHED HUMOR (AND SOME UNPUBLISHED PIECES)

* * *

___________________________________________

PUBLISHED IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

April 25, 2006 (in the print edition and online)

Streaming Katie's Consciousness

By Paul Iorio

If Andy Rooney gawks at my gams one more time I'm going to

flip, and I hope Bob Schieffer doesn't call me a "talented gal" again,

but maybe CBS can still show my legs in side-to-side banter with

correspondents, and if Lara Logan tries to upstage me I swear I'll

send her packing to CNN, and I hear they let you yell a lot behind

the scenes at "60 Minutes," so there's a good side to all this, but

please, sources, don't give me any forged National Guard documents,

and I really hope that Duke lacrosse scandal doesn't turn into the

next Jennifer Wilbanks disaster -- did I use the word "alleged" enough?

I'll have to rerack the tapes -- and if I do fall like Connie Chung, maybe I

can get a regular guest spot on "The New Adventures of Old Christine,"

a "Rhoda" for the Oughties, and don't forget the 31st anniversary of the

"Chuckles the Clown" episode of "Mary Tyler Moore" is coming up,

and it has been almost 54 years since the "Vitameatavegamin" episode

of "I Love Lucy," and maybe I can set up a confrontation with some old

guy at CBS a la Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King, but out here on the

plaza, I sometimes wanna click my heels twice and say there's no

place like a bank where I can deposit $300,000 a week, because

this is Katie talking, or is it the more elegant Katherine, the more

refined woman who I used to want to be? Sort of how Alexis Glick

seemed before Al Roker started being hostile toward her -- look,

I don't want to talk about what happened to Alexis, OK, because

this is Katie, and I want my bagel with novy not cream cheese, so

take it back, OK? I'll miss Matt and I'll miss Ann Curry even more

for being the Successor to Katie Who Everyone Knew Could

Never Succeed Me, someone who would scrub the base of the

Prometheus statue while I was interviewing Tyra Banks -- unlike

Alexis Glick, who I don't want to talk about -- so remember to always

hire a weak number two who could not possibly replace you, a good

insurance policy, and coming up in this half hour: Remember "The

Jetsons" -- "Stop this crazy thing!" -- well, flying cars may be finally

coming to a carport near you in another 50 years, says one expert,

and Matt, guess what song this lyric's from: "There were clouds in

my coffee, clouds in my coffee," and yes, it's "You're So Vain" by

Carly Fiorina, unfairly fired by Hewlett-Packard, and also in this

half hour, we'll talk to a woman who finds a diary in her attic that

proves her husband of 17 years is a lying cheat with three wives,

and what she did and what you should know about husbands who

don't always tell the truth, and have you ever played

paper-rock-scissors, a game I always lost in the schoolyards of

my youth, where the anger hardened so that Katherine, the elegant

Katherine on an isle untouched by man, soon became the

brilliantly blunt and fabulously direct Katie, who could beat the boys

at their own game and rub their noses in it -- "...7, 8, 9, 10, you owe

me a Coke!" -- and in this half hour, a man has a moment of truth,

when he realizes his wife is actually the stronger and smarter one --

what a brilliant man, wouldn't you say, Matt? -- and later: she was

a whistleblowee and he was the whistleblower, and five years later

they're happily married, and see how this couple made it work

because of one brave woman, and gas is now over $4 a gallon,

so I'm going to have to take on a second job to pay for it, Matt,

because 300K a week doesn't go as far as it used to, and in

"Today"'s jewelry segment, doesn't this diamond encrusted

iPod look smashing, Matt, and while I'm sitting on this couch stuffed

with emeralds, attended by assistants who serve my bagel with

novy not cream, I almost feel like Katherine...but back to Katie, and

coming up: What's love got to do with it, our guide to women who

say marriage is a great way to get rich not love, and have you

married a Keystone Husband, a mate who can't seem to do

anything right? Well, you're not alone, and we'll talk to the founder

of a new website, geenadavisforpresident.com, who is

trying to organize a write-in campaign for Geena Davis for

president in 2008, and maybe I can lure Ann Curry over to

CBS as permanent substitute anchor.


[Published in The Chicago Tribune, April 25, 2006.]

_________________________________________________

[PUBLISHED IN DETAILS MAGAZINE]



Choosing My Religion

Converting to the World's Great (And Not-So-Great) Religions -- All of Them

By Paul Iorio

If everything were to go wrong, it's somewhat comforting to know

organized religion would take you in -- no matter who you are or what you've

done or what you really believe.


But first you must convert. What religion is best for you? Which one

offers a sensible plan for eternity, no-fault redemption, praying that gets

results, easy admission to heaven, and a moral contract that's non-binding?


To answer these questions, I set out one morning to convert to the world's

great (and not-so-great) religions. Within hours, I grew certain of only one

thing: becoming holy was not the best way to expand my sexual options,

since many faiths prohibit even the most mundane erotic activities. Islam, for

example, forbids masturbation.


"It's a sin," says Abdul Hai of the Islamic Center in Chicago.

"You can't even masturbate with your wife?," I ask.

"How come you do masturbating with your wife?," says Hai.

"Mutual masturbation -- that would be okay, right?," I ask.

"I don't think so," says Hai.


So for those sometimes feel sex is too private to do in front of

another person, Islam is clearly not the way to go.


Muslims also bar lechery. "Even if you gaze at the face of a woman out of

lust, it is forbidden," says Muhammed Salem Agwa, an imam at the Islamic

Cultural Center in New York. (Sunnis and Shiites largely agree on such

lifestyle issues.)


I then tried the Mormons. First thing I found was they take marriage very

seriously. Not only do they nix sex before marriage, they believe in marriage

after death. This, of course, raises the question of whether one can file for

divorce in eternity.


"As far as getting a divorce in the eternities, I don't think so," says an

elder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. "If you lasted until the eternities

with your marriage, it's pretty much going to last forever."


"But if you do get a divorce in eternity, do you split the soul 50:50?," I

ask.


"Good question," he says. "I never thought of that. I'll have to think about

it."


Judaism actually regulates the penis itself; circumcision is recommended

for converts. (For the uninitiated, adult circumcision is usually performed

under a local anesthetic and requires several stitches you know where.)


Next, I checked out the best ways of getting to heaven. For

Catholics, I found the password to heaven is a simple, "I'm sorry." Evidently,

the deal for Catholics is this: Commit any sin during the week, confess on

Sunday, and you're pardoned, no matter what the offense.


Catholics can even envision forgiveness for Adolf Hitler. "If at the end,

Hitler had been truly sorry for the things he had done, then the possibility of

forgiveness is there in a theoretical sense," says Father Kevin Madigan of the

Blessed Sacrament Church in Manhattan.


"Is there any point of evil beyond which you say, 'No amount of

repentance will redeem you?,'" I ask.


"No," says Father Madigan.


Catholics aren't the only ones with a loose forgiveness policy. Listen to

Pentecostal pastor Donald Lee of the Healing Stream Deliverance Church in

New York: "One of the people we're affiliated with is Son of Sam," he says,

sounding a bit like Dan Aykroyd's E. Buzz Miller character on the original

"Saturday Night Live." "We've prayed with him a number of times, and he's

really strong now in the Lord."


"That seems way over the top," I say. "If Son of Sam doesn't go to hell,

then who does?"


"He doesn't go to hell because he's totally repented. In this case, he really

meant business with God," says Lee.


"What sins won't you excuse?," I ask.


"When you experience the power of God and then you blaspheme it, you

mock it," Lee explains.


Other religions have their own quirky, irredeemable acts. What sin do

Lutherans consider unforgivable?


"To die in unbelief," says Dale Hansen, the pastor at St. Luke's Lutheran

Church in Manhattan.


"But then if I believe before I die, I'm forgiven my previous unbelief?," I

ask.


"That's right," says Hansen.

With this much forgiveness going around, heaven must be mighty

crowded, right? Not according to Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim heaven

has a tight guest list of exactly 144,000. Apparently, admission depends on

who you know. Each apostle gets to bring along 12,000 guests, says Elder

Eugene Dykes of Kingdom Hall in Columbia, South Carolina.


Despite stiff competition for admission to heaven, one can still have a shot

by following as many religious rules as possible. Among them are the Ten

Commandments, which raise complex ethical questions. For instance, would

I be considered unholy if I break the First Commandment by believing Al

Green is God?


"Oh, no, no, no," says Adriano Hernandez of the Broadway Seventh-Day

Adventist Church in Manhattan.


"Al Green is a great guy, but he's not the supreme being of the universe,"

notes Glenn Evans of the Singles' Ministry of the First Baptist Church of

Dallas, Texas.


"Believing Al Green is God means you're going to become a total servant

of Al Green," says Father Madigan, "and whenever he calls you on the phone

and wants you to do something, you're going to do that. I don't understand

how you can worship Al Green as a god."


"I think you're pulling my leg here," says the very smart Leslie Merlin of

Brick Presbyterian Church in New York.


If the Ten Commandments are strict, just think of Judaism, with its

additional 613 commandments. How do you know if you're violating, say,

commandment 537? "It's hard," admits Rabbi Jacob Spiegel of the First

Roumanian American Congregation. "We don't expect you to."


Most orders of Judaism don't expect adherence to their dietary laws. One

commandment forbids Jews to consume meat and any milk product at the

same meal, which rules out something as innocent as coffee with milk after a

burger. But Rabbi Simcha Weinberg of the Lincoln Square Synagogue slyly

reveals a loophole: "You could have the coffee first."


Islam's food restrictions are so strict it's a wonder someone hasn't

marketed them as a diet plan yet. Among the regulations, most devotees must

fast from dawn to dusk for one month a year. Does that mean not even a Slim

Fast or a megavitamin? "You cannot even take a drop of water once you start

fasting," Abdul Hai says sternly.


Praying is a good way to get your side of the story across to God. And

God reportedly understands every prayer in every tongue -- including

tongues.


Pastor Donald Lee demonstrates his fluency in tongues: "When the spirit

comes into you, you'll be speaking in tongues -- cora ba shinda da ba sa --

like that. Like right now -- kara sheek a ra da ba da sheev ba ra sa. When I

pray in tongues -- cora da shotta -- it gives the Holy Spirit a chance to dig

deep."


But don't try imitating Pastor Lee, which of course I know you're dying to

do. "You could imitate me, but it wouldn't be by the Holy Spirit," he says.

"It would just be mechanical."


Islam requires Muslims to take comfort in prayer five times a day and to

turn toward Mecca when doing so. "Suppose I turn toward San Francisco," I

say. "Does that negate my prayer?"


"You can have a compass and you keep it with you," responds

Muhammed Salem Agwa.


Because I didn't have my compass with me, I decided to try another

religion. What about Christian Science? At the very least, it's a super way to

save on healthcare. I checked out a service in Greenwich Village.


The congregation, looking like people who wash their hair with bar soap,

sings Hymn 31, a four-four ditty with catchy lyrics like: "What chased the

clouds away? Twas love, whose finger traced aloud a bow of promise on the

cloud."


Then it's open-mike time at the church, and a Christian Scientist with a

comb-over shaped like a gerrymandered congressional district says, "I have a

healing to share." Though the Scientists believe faith can cure any ailment,

this service was causing me sudden nausea. I left for the Hare Krishna house

on Second Avenue.


Approaching the Krishna center, I expected a lot of shaved heads and

chanters in neon orange robes. Instead, I found an almost irreverent

get-together of twentysomethings vaguely resembling Billy Bragg and

Sinead O'Connor.


I investigated the Krishnas further. Which Vishnu god gives me the best

return on my worship? "Kirshna," says Akunthita Dasi of the International

Society for Krishna Consciousness in Chicago.


Must my cremated ashes be scattered on the Ganges River, or will the

Hackensack or Potomac do? "We just throw ashes in the lake here," says

Chakra Pani of the Temple of Understanding near Limestone, West Virginia.


Seeking something more earthly, I tried an Orthodox Jewish Minchah

service at Congregation Talmud Torah Adereth El in Manhattan. In a tight

basement with bars on the windows, men wearing hats turned the pages of

the Torah backward and spoke Yiddish in an emphatic fast-motion ritual. I made

a contribution and quickly left.


Equally daunting was a Catholic Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New

York. Inside, worshipers repeated "I shall not fear" as a cop patrolled the

north aisle and an usher prodded me with a long-armed collection basket.

Then everybody shook hands with one another on cue and filed out to the

sound of a barely audible organ.


A nearby Buddhist meditation service was a breath of fresh incense -- at

first. But then someone told me I was meditating incorrectly and needed

formal instruction. (In Zenspeak, I didn't know what I wasn't doing.)


My head was spinning in a spiritual vortex. I wondered: could I

simultaneously shave my head, get circumcised, genuflect, speak in tongues,

pray with a compass, and stop masturbating? It may be worth trying. It

would certainly improve my chances of getting to heaven.


[From Details magazine, October 1994; this is the way I originally write it.]
___________________________________________________________

[PUBLISHED IN LOS ANGELES NEW TIMES]

Richard Pryor, At Twilight on Sunset

An Eyewitness Account of Pryor's Last Two Concerts

By Paul Iorio


It's twilight on Sunset outside The Comedy Store between the billboards

of dead icons James Dean and Frank Zappa and just down the street from where

John Belushi shot his last speedball. Around fourteen comics are scheduled to

perform at The Store tonight, but there are no lines around the block and no

ticket scalpers on the sidewalk, despite the star power of one of the

fourteen, the one whose name appears on the outdoor marquee that reads:

"Richard Pryor Tonight."


Pryor is about to perform what will become the last two shows of his

life. It's July 17, 1996.


Defying his own multiple sclerosis, he is set to take the stage at The

Comedy Store, the West Hollywood, comedy club where he created his best

material in the 1970s, the birthplace of his codger character Mudbone and a

lot of other prime stuff.


But expectations for a laugh are lower than the setting sun, since

Pryor's M.S. sometimes makes him not just unfunny, but incoherent. No

reporters, except this one, are on hand to witness Pryor's swan song.

Outside the club, stray Sunset Strip toughs walk and loiter. Inside,

a couple hundred fans file into the place, perhaps to glimpse whatever

legendary fire remains or to pay respect to a bona fide comic genius or

to survey the shambles of a collective youth lost to drugs, illness and the

ravages of time. A solo pianist plays "We're in the Money" and other

jaunty tunes.


Five comics warm up for Pryor tonight. Though none could have touched

him back when, the openers are now the ones evoking most of the laughter, if

not the attention. The best is stand-up Mark Curry, star of the Nineties

television series "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper," who kills live.


"Free Willy: some people thought it was about some brother in jail.

'Willy didn't do all that shit, 'know,'" jokes Curry, as the crowd explodes.


And there are laughs for Argus Hamilton, the former Tonight Show regular

and writer for Pryor's TV show in the Seventies ("O.J. says to A.C.: 'I told

you Costa Rica not Costa Mesa!'").


By 10:00 p.m., the place is packed with Pryor fanatics and stand-up

aficionados. Pryor is late but no one seems to mind a bit. An exquisitely

pissed-off set by the very spontaneous Ellen Cleghorne takes everyone's mind

off the delay.


Then, at long last there's commotion at the back of the club as Marvin

Gaye's "What's Goin' On?" blasts from speakers. Two massive guys carry a frail,

thin, dapper man who looks, well, more like Mudbone than the person he used

to be. The full house stands and applauds vigorously but in a somewhat

ceremonial way, as if he were receiving some sort of lifetime achievement

award. Some in the audience seem to be taken aback by Pryor's physical

deterioration. The music stops, the crowd sits.


It's around 10:50 p.m. and, against enormous odds, Pryor has just

reclaimed the stage at the Comedy Store.


Pryor is wearing a red cap and sits in his wheelchair next to a stool

that has a glass of water on it. A handler puts a pair of glasses on the

comedian and then leaves the stage.


"These are glasses, right?" Pryor quips, calling the thick lenses

"Coke bottles." The audience, which is primed to laugh, laughs.


"I appreciate that you laugh at me no matter what I say," says Pryor.

The crowd laughs again. One senses that Pryor, like his early mentor Redd

Foxx, could die onstage clutching his heart, and the audience would roar at

the bit.


"I'm gonna die soon," he continues. Twenty-five years ago, that line

might have kicked off a sidesplitter, like the classic in which he

impersonates someone panicking during a bad acid trip by repeating

"I'm-gonna-die, I'm-gonna-die" like a mantra-turned-tribal-chant. But

tonight, it's decades later, and "I'm-gonna-die" means I'm-gonna-die.

A sexy blonde woman in the front center row is quietly weeping,

occasionally wiping tears from her face.


"People ask me, 'Are you pissed off?' I say, 'Yeah!,'" Pryor says.


Pryor tries to sip something but has major trouble bringing the cup to

his lips. There's a long pause.


"I hope you're as nice to other comics as you are to me," says Pryor.


"We love ya, Rich," yells someone.


"Yeah, babe," shouts another.


A waitress serves the front rows, and Pryor spots her.


"What're you doin'? Stealin' drinks?" he jokes. A hint of the old fire.


He sips and softly says, "Shit," at something private.


"Thanks for listening to me...It's been weeks since I saw my dick hard,"

he says. This from a guy who used to joke his cock was "hard enough to cut

diamonds."


"Hold the mike up to you, sir," someone shouts. "So we can hear you."


"I don't want you to hear me," snaps Pryor. A long silence.


"Life's a bitch," he says, drooling a bit.


"And then you die?" adds a fan.


"Yeah, but when?" asks Pryor. "I don't mind hanging around, but shit!"


"When they said I had M.S., I said, 'I don't even know what M.S. is,'"

says Pryor. "Doctor said, 'Don't worry, you will.'"


A woman in the front row gets up to leave.


"Where you goin', pretty lady?" Pryor asks. The moment recalls a scene

from the movie "Lenny," where the Lenny Bruce character shouts, "Where're you

going?" to fans leaving a lousy show of his. But this isn't "Lenny," and he

isn't Lenny. Bruce died alone, broke and blacklisted; Pryor is dying with

lots of friends and fans -- and at least some money.


So when he says, "Where you goin', pretty lady?," the woman smiles at

him and says apologetically, "I'm going to the bathroom."


"I told my mom, 'Dad is fucking everyone in the neighborhood.' She said,

'Just be glad he isn't fucking you,'" jokes Pryor. Fans laugh.


He pauses. "Bear with me." The audience is now silent enough that

unrelated laughter from an adjoining room can be heard.


Out of the blue, Pryor says, "Thanks, Jenny," referring to his ex-wife

Jennifer Lee, who he has since re-married and who handles his life and career

with the dedication of a true believer.


"I beat Jenny up sometimes a long time ago," says Pryor. "She's the first

woman who ever hit me in the mouth. [pause] Just because I asked her for some

pussy."


The crowd applauds. Then, attendants come to carry Pryor offstage, the

audience gives him a standing ovation, and recorded music plays. He was

onstage for forty minutes. The applause seems as much for his courage as for

any humor.


And his raw honesty is jarring in this Age of Spin, when celebrities pay

publicists nice money to hide scandals or twist them into something

unrecognizable. Pryor seems proud of his imperfections -- or at least proud

of not hiding them -- and freely jokes about his bad health, his lavish drug

use, the brothels of his childhood, even something as reprehensible as

wife-beating. No muckraker could possibly expose Pryor's dark side because

the comic has already scooped them.


A week later, on July 24, 1996, Pryor performs another show at the

Comedy Store, literally the last full-length stand-up performance of

his life.


This time he is feistier and funnier -- at first. With the small club

packed again, and no journalists present (except this one) again, Pryor

gets some genuine laughs when he refers to fellow M.S. victim Annette

Funicello as "that M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E bitch."


"Put the mike closer," someone yells.


"Fuck you!," snaps Pryor, and people howl. Pryor actually seems to

like it when the crowd is rude and less reverential, perhaps because he's

then under no obligation to be appreciative, or maybe because he's developed

a taste for hecklers.


After joking about "getting pussy in the rehab ward," the show takes a

steep dive. "I got a mouthful of shit," Pryor says, "and I can't..." He

trails off.


Pryor pulls out a piece of paper and tries for minutes to unfold it. An

uneasy silence fills the place. It's almost like the scene in the movie

"Born on the Fourth of July" when Ron Kovic starts a public speech

smoothly, but suddenly and inexplicably stops dead as the audience watches

in shock.


"Take your time," someone shouts.


Pryor continues trying to unfold the paper but his hands just aren't

agile enough to do it. His body is literally progressively failing him with

every passing minute.


"We're not going anywhere," a guy yells.


"Neither am I," says Pryor, grumbling about not having his "big-ass Coke

bottle" glasses again. After several minutes, he finally finishes unfolding the

paper and stares at it for awhile. Now there's a new problem: he can't read it.


"This M.S. shit is getting to me," he says.


A handler brings Pryor a cigarette. Pryor flicks a bright red lighter

once, twice, and flames it the third time.


"Could you bring me a Number Twenty?" Pryor asks someone. A Number

Twenty, in Comedy Store parlance, is a martini.


"Yessir," comes the response from someone in the audience.


Smoke from Pryor's cigarette fills the air for an elastic, relaxed minute

or so.


In the spotlight, smoke hovers over the front rows like cumulus clouds

that are ready to drench and thunder with electricity. But the fire and fury

don't come. The crowd is silent.


"You all are very patient," Pryor says.


"We gotta be; we paid ten dollars," says someone, good-naturedly.


"Hey, don't start no shit!," Pryor says.


Through the smoke, Pryor lifts his Number Twenty feebly, as if he's Dave

the aged astronaut in the time travel sequence of "2001: A Space Odyssey."

With smoke and silence everywhere, the whole place seems to be caught in a

time warp; a minute ago we were in 1976 (wasn't that a minute ago?) and

suddenly we're transported to the present-day, where there's this old man

onstage in the house of his prime. Could this really be the same guy who

thirty years ago had such masterful physical control that he could

impersonate a race car, run hilariously in slow motion, or convince

audiences he was having a heart attack by falling to the floor?


"I know I can't see, but when I wear the Coke bottles, then everybody

knows it," he says. He smokes his cigarette, his breathing now audibly

labored.


"I'm glad I've got M.S. -- it's keeping me alive," he says. "Isn't that

what you said, Jenny?" Pryor was referring to Lee's much-quoted theory that

if the disease hadn't slowed him down, he'd have been killed in the fast

lane by now.


Onstage, Pryor's cigarette burns to his fingertips, and he isn't physically

able to remove it. "Get this motherfuckin' cigarette out of my hand 'cause it's

burning me!" he blurts, real pain in his voice. A handler bounds onstage to take

it away.


As it turned out, those were Pryor's very last words onstage in a

full-length concert anywhere. He would never attempt another stand-up

performance.


The half-hour show ends at 11:20 p.m., as two muscular guys carry him

offstage. Pryor is driven home.


[This story (or a modified form of it) first appeared in New Times Los Angeles in October 1996; it's also the first chapter of my book on Pryor, re-written in late 2005. Incidentally, I audiotaped Pryor's last show.]
______________________________________________________________
WEB EXCLUSIVE, 2007

Humor

Little-Known Popes in Papal History

By Paul Iorio

POPE NAPOLEON THE 13TH
Mad Pope Napoleon the 13th's brief reign was marked by grandiose plans and an obsession with Napoleon Bonaparte. He was deposed when he tried to turn the Vatican into a nuclear power. (1952)

POPE LUCIFER
An anti-pope who advocated praying to the Devil and to God in order to cover all bases. (431 A.D.) [For the record, the term anti-pope refers to those who establish a power base that competes with The Holy See.]

POPE JESUS GOD THE SECOND
For all the arrogance of his name, Jesus God 2 actually turned out to be somewhat humble and unassuming, noted mostly for his punctuality. Was convinced the Old Testament had been penned by a guy named Smith. (1564)

POPE MUHAMMAD THE FIRST
With the Ottomans threatening Western Europe, the Vatican decided to throw Constantinople a bone by elevating a former imam to the top spot. Muhammad the First, a lapsed Muslim who fled Turkey and converted to Catholicism, fell from favor after he proposed building minarets atop St. Peter’s Basilica. (1627)

POPE KEITH
A hippie anti-pope known for his casual manner and affinity for pop culture, he dispensed with Latin rites in favor of "happenings." (Sept. 1974 to Sept. 1974)

POPE SASKATOON, GOVERNOR OF SASKATCHEWAN
As his expansive title suggests, Saskatoon might have been a bit more preoccupied with claiming long-denied status from the folks back home than with his duties as pope. (1910)

POPE LITERALIST THE 16TH
Took transubstantiation far more literally than most; after a car accident, he insisted Vatican doctors give him a blood transfusion using Chianti Classico instead of blood, a fatal decision. Advocated medical care for the dead, who he called the "as yet unrisen." (1960)

POPE JOHNNY THE FIRST
An American greaser of the 1950s -- and self-styled "Method Pope” -- who rode a Harley to work. (1956)

POPE DIDDY
The first hip hop anti-pope. Expanded the use of "signs of the Cross" to include gang hand signs. (1998)

POPE RABBI GOLDSTEIN
Not officially a pope or a rabbi, and operating for a time from a psychiatric facility in Antwerp, where he occasionally broadcast a syndicated faith program called “This Week in Eternal Damnation," he actually convinced several dozen people, mostly Belgians, that he was the first Jewish pope. (1988)

[Published here for the first time, 2007.]
_____________________________________________


SPY MAGAZINE


a scan of my December 1992 article for Spy magazine, the "Dylan-o-matic."



_____________________________________________

THE SAN FRANICSCO CHRONICLE



[The Paranoid Movie Game, which I conceived and designed and wrote for the paper; the only element not authored by me are the drawings within the boxes.]


[From The San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 1997; the "paranoid movie" coinage and idea came from me, as did the Paranoid Movie game board that accompanied the published piece.]

_______________________________________________________________


FROM SPY MAGAZINE

The Disneyfication of America

By Paul Iorio

Once upon a time, Spy magazine speculated about what would happen

"When Disney Ran America." It imagined Michael Eisner as president of the

United States, theme parks taking over cities, that sort of thing. Fictional

stuff, absurdly funny at the time, too silly to take seriously. Except now,

nobody's laughing.

Almost every sector of America has been Disneyfied to some degree, it

seems. Disneyfication has come to every multiplex cinema, where Disney

flicks regularly rule, and at the highest reaches of pop music, where Michael

Jackson literally lives in his own theme park. It's in Las Vegas and Atlantic

City, gambling theme parks that somehow seem less real than Toon Town.

It's in shopping malls, those insulated mini-kingdoms that are spawning their

own fairground attractions. It's even in national defense, where the "Star

Wars" strategic defense initiative stands as the Pentagon's great, unrealized

hope of Disneyfying outer space.

And now, finally, American history itself is about to be Disneyfied. Plans

for a theme park near historic Manassas, Virginia, are expected to be

approved by a county board, thanks in no small park to a stunningly

expensive lobbying campaign that included the giving of Mickey Mouse

neckties to lawmakers. With Manassas virtually conquered, what's next for

Disney? A crucifixion wonderland in Jerusalem? A line of condoms made of

flubber?

How about a Disney town? Believe it or not, Disney currently plans to

develop and build an actual town (projected population: 20,000) in the

Florida wetlands. The town is being designed as a sort of 1950s American

smalltown of white picket fences, clapboard houses and soda shoppes.

The proposed community, just south of Orlando, will sport the vaguely

creationist-sounding name of Celebration. It's not going to be "the kind of

place where everybody has to wear mouse ears," says Leanne Hand of the

West Group, which handles public relations for Celebration. (Disney

wouldn't comment for this story.)

So what will Celebration be like? "What I see is a 1940s Florida-type

community," says Chris Colombo, superintendent of the school board of

Osceola County, where the town is being built. "You're going to see houses

that as a kid I can remember very clearly. You're going to see upward-

mobility type individuals."

The vision of Celebration, in others words, seems to look simultaneously

to the past and to the future, or, rather, to a future as imagined by Disney in

the past, when an old-fashioned futurism of flying cars and magic potions

prevailed. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality even further, Disney

appears to be applying theme-park principles to Celebration: citizenship will

include free admission to Disney World and EPCOT center.

Not surprisingly, the town is also spawning a -- you guessed it -- theme

school.

"You're going to see classes taught that are theme-oriented rather than

age-oriented," says Colombo. "Can you imagine a kindergarten student

holding hands with a high school student, looking at the flora and fauna?,"

he asks. "Are you familiar with the term 'exceptional student'? You're

going to see those students mixed in with whatever's called regular

students."

There is also a question about the potential demographic makeup of the

town. The descriptions of Celebration ("like your hometown"; "a 1940s

community") combined with Disney's sometimes conservative corporate

culture lead one to wonder whether there will be much ethnic diversity in

town. After all, wasn't Florida racially segregated in the 1940s? Racially

speaking, isn't the town likely to be, er, snow white?

Again, Disney wouldn't comment on this or any other aspect of the town.

But Hand assured us that "Whoever happens to get in line and buy the house

first gets to own the house."

Hand explained Disney's reluctance to talk to me. "If you look at [Spy

magazine], you have to admit -- I'll admit it, I've read it before -- it's a

satirical magazine," she says, as if revealing some unspeakable truth. After

I told her that all sides would be fairly represented, she told me: "What I'm

gonna try to do is get some copies of Spy, because [the powers-that-be

at Disney], not being hip and not with the program, don't know much about it."

Then Hand inadvertently revealed that the ultimate in Disneyfication had

occurred: a county commissioner, she reported, "had his assistant call us and

say, 'I have this message from some reporter and y'all handle it, 'cause it's

about Celebration. Now what we need to do is tell him to call you if you

want to talk to him.'"

And with that, the Magic Kingdom inched closer to absolute power,

showing that even the government now comments through Disney.


PART TWO: PLANNING A DISNEY WEDDING.

Ultimately, Disneyfication invades even the sanctity of our rituals, to the

point where you can now have your wedding "themed" by Disney (as in, an

"Aladdin" theme or a "Snow White" theme) and presented at Walt Disney

World. (Still no word on plans to market Disney Divorces or Fairy Tale

Funerals.)

Since Disney reminds us to tie the knot with imagination -- even though

the Disney theme park brand of imagination is conventional and banal -- I

decided to find out how far the company would go to make my wedding

plans come true, whether they would (in Disneyspeak) put the icing on the

street of dreams.

I phoned Disney's Rebecca Miller about planning my upcoming wedding

to, er, Minnie. Here's a transcript of our conversation:

IORIO: I'm thinking in terms of a kind of "Fantasia"-type [wedding].

MILLER: Absolutely. In fact, we have a ballroom at the Contemporary
[Hotel] called the Fantasia Ballroom. The types of things we can do from a
decor standpoint, as far as adapting whatever movie it may be -- certainly a
Disney movie -- there's no limit.

IORIO: Have you ever done a Dumbo wedding?

MILLER: Never done a Dumbo wedding. I can say I've never done a
Dumbo wedding but we've done "Aladdin" themes. We have done a very
elaborate "Beauty and the Beast" theme wedding where we've done literally
a stage show.

IORIO: What about at the reception having a flying elephant in the sense of
a helium-filled elephant in the reception area over the crowd? Possible?

MILLER: Possible, if we have one. What we draw a lot from are existing
things that have been in past parades. I don't know if we have a huge
Dumbo. Doesn't mean we can't create it. However, I have no idea where to even tell
you we're looking at cost-wise for that kind of thing.

IORIO: Here's another one that we were thinking of, because it's a personal
favorite of my fiancee's, and that is the "Snow White and the Three Stooges"
movie. And don't laugh.

MILLER: [laughs]

IORIO: That just happens to be an old '62 movie that she likes. Now, the
Three Stooges, however, aren't --

MILLER: Ours.

IORIO: Aren't yours -- exactly. But is it possible to get...Manny, Moe and
Shemp or whatever?

MILLER: You mean actors?

IORIO: Yeah.

MILLER: Sure. I wouldn't see why not. That's something that our talent
booking people would do, would put a call out or certainly do a talent search
for people who could appropriately play those actors, if you will. With our
resources being as vast as they are, I don't see that would be a problem.

IORIO: In terms of Dumbo's ears, can you get those? I know you have
Mickey Mouse ears.

MILLER: I do not know the answer to that question. If it is an existing
product, we can; when you get into copyright things and to things that are
very character-oriented that way, then it's probably not something in mass
quantities that we could have produced.

IORIO: And here's another idea in terms of adding some realism into it. If
we could get, like in a controlled container, cute mice, for example, maybe
ten of them or something. I don't know how appropriate that would be at the
reception.

MILLER: Again, I don't know about -- I mean, we have rules and things like
that. You mean, just having them sit there?

IORIO: Like Mickey Mouse. I don't know, I'm trying to picture how it
would even be --

MILLER: If you're talking mice, let's say from a Cinderella standpoint, what
some of the Cinderella brides and grooms have done in the past is to have
Minnie and Perla -- Is it Minnie? Is it Perla? -- the mice that make
Cinderella's gown...We have those characters...

IORIO: But in terms of real mice, though --

MILLER: Might be a little -- not saying we couldn't do it, but would they --
you -- they wouldn't run around, right?

IORIO: No, not at the [reception]. They'd be contained in a --

MILLER: Cage.

IORIO: A transparent container of some sort.

MILLER: I could look into it. Again, some of these are requests I've not yet
had, but no request is too extreme. What it takes is a little legwork on my
part, to make some phone calls and to see if something like this is even
available.

IORIO: Okay.

MILLER: There are some things like that that may become issues. Yeah,
because people who want their dog to act as a maid of honor or as best man
or whatever, and unfortunately those requests have to be denied because pets
are not allowed. They are in the kennel location only; they're not allowed in
the resort.

IORIO: Why don't we wait until I get to discuss this with --

MILLER: With Minnie.

IORIO: With Minnie. Let me discuss it with her and then we'll proceed.

A FEW DAYS LATER, SHE GOT BACK TO ME.

IORIO: The one other thing I had down was the idea of the transparent
container of mice. Is that going to be prohibited?

MILLER: The only thing that was kind of brought up to me was that perhaps
there would most definitely be a sanitary condition -- not certainly that they'd
ever be running around, but you'd have animals where you're serving food.
Do you have a number [of mice] that you're thinking of?

IORIO: I was thinking around ten of them in a transparent box or container
[placed] near the bandstand area. [My fiancee] was thinking in terms of, if
we could pin ears, Mickey Mouse ears, to actually have them be Mickey
Mouse mice. Cute little mice of a certain size may not be a problem; you
could get some regular paper Mickey Mouse ears, it would seem to me, and
clip them in a non-injurious fashion to the actual ears of the mice.

MILLER: The only concern I would have being that we were doing it is that
I don't know if we would want a real mouse to be in the likeness of Mickey
Mouse because we have Mickey Mouse, you know what I mean? Mickey
Mouse himself can come!

IORIO: So why have a fake one?

MILLER: Right, why simulate it with a real mouse when you can have the
genuine article there?


[From Spy magazine, September 1994.]
__________________________________________________________

WEB EXCLUSIVE, 2007


Blasphemous Satire


My Faux Interview with Osama bin Laden

By Paul Iorio

Traveling through Tora Bora the other day, I decided to

stop by Osama bin Laden's cave for a quick chat on the eve of his

50th birthday. Osama welcomed me in, popped open a Red Bull and

plopped down on a bean bag chair.


I soon noticed bin Laden was not in his usual robe and

turban, but was wearing a Star of David and a yarmulke. A copy of the

Torah and Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" were on his coffee

table. I knew this would be no ordinary interview.


LOOKS LIKE YOU'VE CHANGED. ARE YOU THROUGH WITH TERRORISM?

OSAMA BIN LADEN: Yeah, the terrorism thing wasn't
panning out anymore. Everything we tried didn't work. For example,
we had a couple jihadists aboard a JetBlue flight last month, but
it was delayed for so long that even the hijackers stomped off the
plane in disgust!

WHAT CAUSED YOU TO BECOME A JEW?

BIN LADEN: It started when I was reading Rushdie's
"Satanic Verses" in my cave. Loved the story of Mahound. And Gibreel
was so sly. So that got me thinking about leaving the faith, and I
considered Hinduism and even Scientology before settling on Judaism.

YOU ACTUALLY LIKED RUSHDIE'S NOVEL?

BIN LADEN: I didn't expect to like it but it grew on me.
And I even enjoyed the bit about Mohammed's 12 wives. I, too, once had
sex with a prostitute named that way and, frankly, it
increased the eroticism. But the turning point was when I realized
those verses might be satanic after all. Sheesh!

SO YOU'RE ACTUALLY RENOUNCING ISLAM?

BIN LADEN: Yep. No turning back now. There were other issues,
too. Allah never answered my prayers. I prayed for a Kalashnikov.
Nada. I prayed for victory over the infidel. Nada.

WHY JUDAISM?

BIN LADEN: I confess I was touched by a rabbi I was
holding hostage, a cantor who sang so beautifully that I decided not to slit
his throat after a couple verses of "My Heart Will Go On." He was brought
to me by Adam Gadahn.

THAT ORANGE COUNTY GUY WITH THE FAKE ACCENT?

BIN LADEN: Yeah. We used to privately call him The High
Imam of the Great Mall of Milpitas.

WAS THERE A TIPPING POINT?

BIN LADEN: Well, I started reading the Torah -- or the
Tawrat, as I used to call it -- and realized it was a lot like the Koran.
I mean, it almost seemed like a case of copyright infringement, if you
ask me. But I was drawn to all those commandments -- they sort of gave me
structure during a mid-life crisis.

WHAT DO YOUR AL QAEDA COMRADES THINK ABOUT ALL THIS?

BIN LADEN: They're cool with it. In fact, I saw
Ayman al-Zawahiri chuckling over a copy of "Satanic Verses" I gave to him.
Ayman likes Rushdie, too! But I think the real tipping point for all of
us was the JetBlue thing. Seven hours on the tarmac. And not even a
meal -- just peanuts. It just became too hard to be a jihadist.


* * *


By the way, it sounds like Ann Coulter is slurring her

words again. Probably drunk on religious fanaticism again.

Always beware of religious right-wingers like Coulter and

bin Laden, who I hear have had two sons together:

Mohamed Atta and Eric Rudolph.


[Web exclusive; published on this website on March 7, 2007.]

_________________________________________________

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

How Not to Blow Your Oscar Speech

By Paul Iorio

Winning an Oscar causes people to do strange things in public. It inspires

honorees to perform one-armed push-ups, to kiss statuettes, and to lose not

only their shoes but their heads on the way to the podium.


Few have truly mastered the art of the acceptance speech or can hit just

the right balance of grace, wit, gratitude and -- most important -- brevity.


Should one tell a joke, make a political statement, offer a verbal

love letter? Or is it best to hold back and say little? Whom do you thank?

And how?


This is, after all, probably the largest audience a person will ever

address (particularly if the category is make-up), so it's a big

opportunity. "There's about one thousand million people watching you," the

actor Paul Hogan once said, "and you remember: one wrong word, one foolish

gesture, and your whole career could go down in flames."


But that needn't happen this year if award winners simply remember the

past and follow these pointers:


-- Go Easy on the Effusiveness.

The Oscar can cause winners to thank everything in (and out of) sight.

Avoid this tendency. Cautionary tales include the speech of John Patrick

Shanley, accepting the award for best original screenplay for "Moonstruck" in

1988, who thanked "everybody who ever punched or kissed me in my life and

everybody who I ever punched or kiss." Also, Robert DeNiro in 1981

thanked "Joey LaMotta, even though he's suing us" (he won for best actor for

"Raging Bull"). And at the 1980 ceremony, Robert Benton, accepting the

best director award for "Kramer vs. Kramer," said: "I would like to thank all

the people at Columbia past and present." And Ben Burtt, the sound effects

editing winner in '83 ("E.T."), even acknowledged "various otters and

horses."

-- Avoid Politics.

No, your win is not a mandate to negotiate with the Serbs in Bosnia. But

some winners get that impression. In 1973, Marlon Brando refused a best-

actor award for "The Godfather" and sent an activist for native Americans,

Sacheen Littlefeather, in his stead. Vanessa Redgrave mentioned "Zionist

hoodlums" in her remarks in 1978, and was booed for it (she won the best

supporting actress prize for "Julia").

-- Relax.

Just because there are a "thousand million people" watching is no reason

to be nervous, though nervousness might be the only natural response. Even

the best of 'em lose it. Meryl Streep dropped and briefly lost her copy of her

speech on stage in 1983 when she accepted the award for best actress for

"Sophie's Choice." And Geraldine Page couldn't find her shoes when her

name was called in 1986 for the best actress award for "The Trip to

Bountiful."

-- Don't Overdo It.

In an acceptance speech, as in a love letter, it's best to dial back a bit when

the feeling is especially strong. What might seem like an honest airing of

healthy emotion at the time often sounds out-of-control on rewind. Sally

Field's 1985 effusion is the gold standard of modern public embarrassment:

"I can't deny the fact that you like me right now, you like!" Second place

goes to Jack Palance for his one-armed push-ups in 1992.


-- Nervousness Can Cause Incoherence.

Even the sometimes lucid Jack Nicholson mystified everyone in 1984 with

his cryptic ramble upon winning the award for best supporting actor for

"Terms of Endearment." "I was going to talk a lot about how Shirley

[MacLaine] and Debra [Winger] inspired me, but I understand they're

planning an interpretive dance later, to explain everything about life," said

Nicholson, adding: "All you rock people down at the Roxy and up in the

Rockies, rock on." And Jodie Foster nearly missed coherence in 1989 with

"My mother...taught me...that cruelty might be very human and it might be

very cultural, but it's not very acceptable" (she won the best actress prize for

"The Accused").

-- Use the Phrase "Without Whom."

"Without whom" is the perfect poignant phrase for any winning Oscar

speech. Everyone's life includes a "without whom," so by all means mention

yours. When Steve Tesich won the prize for best original screenplay for

"Breaking Away" in 1980, he used two "without whoms" in the same speech.

In 1975, Carmine Coppola -- co-winner of the Oscar for his original score for

"The Godfather, Part II" and father of the film's director Francis Coppola --

offered a fresh spin by saying that without his son, "I wouldn't be here.

However, if I wasn't here, he wouldn't be here, either."


-- Get Grandiose (Pretend It's a Nobel).

It probably feels like a Nobel prize from the podium, so go with the

feeling. Marcel Ophuls did in 1989, when he said "There are whole

countries to thank." And Laurence Olivier's acceptance of an honorary prize

in 1979 sounded like this: "In the great firmament of your nation's

generosities, this particular choice may perhaps be found by future

generations as a trifle eccentric."


-- "You Know Who You Are."

The phrase "you know who you are" can save many minutes of speech

time. Anjelica Huston used this time-saver in her speech in 1986, thanking

"the entire cast and crew of 'Prizzi's Honor' -- I don't want to mention any

names; you know who you are." Warren Beatty should've used the phrase

when he named 14 names in 1982 and thanked "so many more."


-- Try True Wit (But Only as a Last Resort).

If the Oscar host can usually be consistently funny, why can't the winners

be, too? Some can. Dustin Hoffman, for instance, looked at his Oscar

statuette from the podium in 1980 and observed, "He has no genitalia, and

he's holding a sword." And Stirling Silliphant, winning the best adapted

screenplay award for 1968 for "In the Heat of the Night," said: "I really have

no speech. The Writers' Guild doesn't allow us to do any speculative

writing."


[From The New York Times, March 26, 1995.]
________________________________________________

PUBLISHED HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME

Woody Allen Interview

(Exclusive One-on-One Conducted December 3, 1999, in Beverly Hills)

By Paul Iorio

QUESTION: A LOT OF ACTORS SAY THAT YOU TEND TO
GIVE GENERAL DIRECTION [ON THE SET]...IS THAT
WHAT YOU DO TO ELICIT PERFORMANCES?

ALLEN: Yes, sometimes I don't talk to them at all. If they have a
question, of course, I answer it. But I don't tell them anything. I
give them the script or their part of the script and they read it and
if they agree to do the movie, I assume they understand their
character, what they're getting into. And then they show up on the
set and very often they do it and they do it beautifully. Maybe
once or twice I have to correct them. But usually I don't say
anything to them unless they're doing it wrong. Or if they're very
far from what I wanted. But their instincts are good. If you hire
Sean Penn or Dianne Wiest or Hugh Grant or Michael Caine, you
don't want to mess them up. They're great and they do what they
do. So I rarely speak to them. And very often in direction, I'll say,
faster, louder, do less -- that's one of my big directions -- or I'll say
to them, "Look you have to come home into the apartment and
she's cooking dinner and you have to tell her you're leaving her for
another woman or something and you have to go from making
dinner to getting a gun to shoot her. And you make it happen. I
don't know how to tell you to make it happen. You just have to
convince me and make it happen." And they do. They make it
happen. The actor is a very, very strong tool to have and you don't
have to burden them with a lot of talk and conversation.

[WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE BEEN] A JAZZ MUSICIAN
OR A MOVIE MAKER?

ALLEN: I would've hands down been a jazz musician. Because
there's no art form that I could conceive of that would be more
pleasurable to be good at, to have a gift in, than music. The
response is so direct. I'm in a much more cerebral art form.
Automatically I've got to sit in a room and think and plot
characters and analyze their personalities and make sure things
work out...But a musician is gifted; he just kind of picks the horn
up and plays or sits at the piano and plays. You can be completely
illiterate and the emotion is so -- When you see these kids at a rock
concert, there're ten thousand kids out there with their shirts off,
the emotion is so -- You'll never get that [at] a play of Tennessee
Williams or Edward Albee or Eugene O'Neill or Arthur Miller.
You will never get that kind of response. You get a certain kind of
response. Or a film by Bergman or Fellini or Kurosawa or
Truffaut or von Stroheim. But music, it knocks you out instantly.
It's such a delight. If I could've had Bud Powell's talent, I would've
been very very happy with my life.

WOULD YOU HAVE RATHER BEEN A FILM MAKER IN
THE SWING ERA OR TODAY?

ALLEN: No, no, today is better. Because if you were not a
foreign film maker in those years, you were strapped into the
studio system of film making. And there was really no personal
expression at all. You had to fight and fight and fight. And I
know they refer to that as the golden age of movies but really when
you think of it in the United States, it was golden in that there
were so many movies made. The biggest thing in America was
film. But all those films, those thousands and thousands and
thousands of films, there were really very few good ones. Now
you may say, "Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, William Wyler, and
Orson Welles." But if you add them all together -- all these terrific
film makers and their work, and each one had to fight so hard to
make a good film -- and you add them all together, they're still a
tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of films that were made.

IF YOU WERE TO NAME YOUR FIVE FAVORITE [ALLEN]
FILMS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE? DO YOU AGREE WITH
THE CONSENSUS THAT "ANNIE HALL" AND
"MANHATTAN" ARE YOUR TWO BEST FILMS?

ALLEN: No, not at all. They're my two most middle class
successful films. They massage the prejudices of the middle class.
And so they're popular and people like them. But "Husbands and
Wives" is much better than both of those films. "Zelig" is a better
film. I prefer "Bullets Over Broadway," maybe even "Manhattan
Murder Mystery." "Annie Hall" was just a likable trifle that
people liked at the time and "Manhattan" as well. But they're not
nearly as good as some other films. From my point of view, they
may be more popular but you can't equate the popularity of a film
with the quality of the film. Very often your most popular thing is
not your best piece of work.

BUT ANDREW SARRIS MIGHT SAY THAT "MANHATTAN"
IS YOUR BEST. VINCENT CANBY WOULD PROBABLY
SAY "ANNIE HALL" AND "MANHATTAN" --

ALLEN: They might say that. I don't know if they would say that.
I mean, they might. Certainly Vincent Canby has reviewed other
films of mine as well or better than ["Annie Hall"], he was more
enthusiastic about other films. So I don't really know. There were
a lot of people who went crazy over "Bullets Over Broadway"
when I put it out. It got some of the best response I ever had. But
in terms of popularity, you're always going to be more popular
doing a nice contemporary film about relationships that people can
identify with. And films that are fun but not too challenging.

BUT YOU MUST WATCH THEM OCCASIONALLY --

ALLEN: No, no, I've never seen any film of mine after it came
out. I made "Take the Money" first in 1968, I've never seen it
again. Nor have I ever seen "Annie Hall" again or any film of
mine. Once I put it put, I just don't ever want to see it again.
Because I know I would be sitting there, thinking, oh if I could
only do that over. If I could only get the money and call in all the
prints and do that over.

DO YOU REGRET HAVING MADE A MOVIE?

ALLEN: I don't regret having made them. I think some have
come out better than others. There are two specific points of view:
mine and the audience or slash critics, the public. There are films
that I've made that are considered a great success because I had an
idea and I wrote it and I shot it and I realized my vision and then
nobody liked it.

SUCH AS?

ALLEN: "Stardust Memories," for example, was a film of mine, a
very unpopular film that to me just realized my vision perfectly.
On the other hand, I've had the opposite come true where I've
made a film like "Hannah and Her Sisters" that was wildly
popular, for me, and I was very disappointed in it when I was
finished, only disappointed in that I had a certain vision that I
wrote.

HOW CAN THAT BE? EVERYBODY LOVED "HANNAH."

ALLEN: Right, but I had a different thing in mind. It's a different
animal for the public than it is for me. I'm sitting there and I'm
thinking, oh god, I wanted to do this and I wanted to do this, I
can't do it, I've got to compromise and I've got to change that
character and that's not how her story can end and this isn't
working. And when it was finished, I put it together as best I can
and put it out and it was very successful, very entertaining to
people. But for me personally, if they knew what I set out to do,
they would say, "Oh, I see why you have failed, because if this is
what you wanted to do, this is not it."

WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO?

ALLEN: There were a number of things in the characters that I
was trying to do, and the picture ended too neatly for me. I wanted
to make it much more that Michael Caine was back with Mia but
going through the motions. I mean back because Barbara Hershey
had married someone else and he's still completely in love with
her. And he was just sort of back with his wife now, like a man
who has some extramarital fling with some woman and he's crazy
about her but he can't seem to bring himself to leave his wife...And
he gets along with his wife, it's a partnership, but it's doesn't have
the same [feeling]. And I couldn't get that feeling into it. I got a
more of a cop-out feeling into it at the end where he was sort of
back with Mia, more contented, less anxiety ridden. And this for
me was a big negative. Whereas in "Purple Rose of Cairo," I got it
exactly where I wanted it. In fact, the studio called me, it was
United Artists, and they said, "This is a wonderful picture. Do you
have to have that ending on it?" And I said, "The only reason I did
the picture was so I could have that ending on it." I don't know if
you remember or not, but the ending was that Mia was forced to
choose between the real guy or the guy from the screen. And she
chose the real guy. Because you can't choose the fantasy in life
because that way lies madness. So she chose reality. And the guy
crushed her. The guy dumped her and went off. Because you're
forced to choose reality and reality so often hurts you. But they
would have liked her -- like at the end of "Splash" when he
married the mermaid -- to go off with the screen figure or to go
back into the screen or to do something where the audience went
out with a happy feeling. But that was a picture that I just felt that
I landed right on the dime. And to me, that was maybe my most
perfect picture.

"CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS" IS SOMETHING THAT
COULD'VE HAD A LOT OF ALTERNATE ENDINGS.

ALLEN: But that was the ending that I wanted. That he hires
someone to kill the person and gets away with it and has no sense
of remorse about it. And is completely fine. He has a wife and
family. Because when I made that picture, my intellectual concept
to begin the picture was that there is no justice in the world, no
god, no justice in the world, and that if we don't police ourselves,
if we don't have a conscience, then nobody is going to police us.
So one person could commit a murder and be torn up by it
completely...And another guy could commit a murder and -- if he
gets caught, he gets caught and too bad for him. But if he doesn't
get caught, he commits the murder and he's fine, he's enjoying his
life. I mean, the world's full of people out there that have done the
most unscrupulous things, including murder, and live the most
wonderful lives. And there's no god to punish them, if they don't
have a moral sense themselves. So the movie ended the way I
wanted: I wanted Martin Landau to have eliminated this woman
who was bothering him by having her killed. And having a
perfectly good life with his family, and if it doesn't bother him, it's
not going to bother anyone if he's not caught.

BUT YOU HINT AT THE FACT THAT IT CHANGES THE
CHEMISTRY OF A PERSON WHEN THAT HAPPENS. IN
OTHER WORDS, HOW CAN HE CONTINUE TO LIVE THAT
FAMILY LIFE --

ALLEN: But he does. He's there with his wife and daughter at the
wedding and he's absolutely fine. He's aware of what he's done in
the story. But he's absolutely fine. And he's living in a nice
house, with a beautiful wife and a nice daughter. And the other
story, the subplot about me, Mia and Alan Alda: the fact that I had
wonderful intentions all the time doesn't mean a thing in life. Alan
Alda had the more important thing: he was a success. And even
though he was a jerk, he was successful. And people pay off on
success. They don't care about your good intentions. Now, you
can say that's a personal thing, for me as a film maker, and it is.
And it also operates for everybody else in life. The audience does
not want to hear what wonderful intentions I had with a film. Is
the film good or bad? If it's good, they like it. If the next guy's got
a good film, they like his film. They don't care what your
intentions are, that you wanted to do something great. And they
didn't care about my intentions as the character in that film. They
liked Alan Alda because he was successful and exciting, even
though he aimed low.

YOU MENTIONED EARLIER "BULLETS OVER
BROADWAY." WHY HAVEN'T YOU YET WRITTEN
ANOTHER FILM WITH DOUGLAS MCGRATH, SINCE THAT
ONE TURNED OUT SO WELL?

ALLEN: I don't usually collaborate. The only reason I did it that
time, Doug was a good social friend of mine, as Marshall
Brickman was a social friend and Mickey Rose, who I went to
school with. I write by myself most of the time because I enjoy it.
Then after a number of pictures, it gets lonely always writing by
yourself, so just to break the mold I'll call somebody up. And
usually it's a friend, and [I'll] say, "You want to work on a picture"
and they'll say, "Sure." And the experience of writing, just for a
change, is not quite so lonely. Because when I do that for four or
five pictures in a row, it means I've been doing it for four or five
years. That's the only reason. Some time again, I'll call somebody,
either Doug or Marshall Brickman, and say, "Want to work on a
picture?," and usually they do want to do, because we have fun
anyhow, so why not?


OF THE SEVEN PICTURES THAT YOU CO-WROTE, WHAT
WERE THE MAJOR PARTS THAT YOU DIDN'T WRITE? FOR
EXAMPLE, "BULLETS OVER BROADWAY": WHAT DIDN'T
YOU WRITE THERE? IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE THAT YOU
DIDN'T WRITE ANY OF IT.

ALLEN: That's what a collaboration is. When I collaborate with
someone, we sit in a room like this and we talk and talk and talk
about characters and ideas and where things should go. Then
when it comes time to actually write the script I go in a room by
myself and actually write the thing because I've gotta say it or I've
gotta direct it. They can then go home, they don't have any more
obligation. I want it the way I want it at that point. So it always
feels like me, because I'm the one always doing the writing. But
the formulation of the picture in a collaboration is done by two
people. So, many ideas I might not think of, were it not for the
other person. You know, you can never trace the origin of
something. I'll be siting with Doug or Marshall and he'll, say,
"Pitch a funny idea about pickpocketing." And then I'll say, "I saw
a movie the other day on television and there was a pickpocket in
it and there was a great car chase where the car burst into flames."
And then we write a joke about a car bursting into flame. I never
would've thought of that movie, and you can't trace it back.

WITH "ANNIE HALL," WERE THERE ANY PARTS THAT
MARSHALL BRICKMAN SOLELY WROTE?

ALLEN: Yes, Marshall Brickman and I collaborated on the whole
thing. We both did it together. That picture wouldn't exist
without him. We collaborated on every idea about Alvy and Annie
and how it goes and where it goes. All the hard work is that. To
me it's easy to write a script. I can usually can write it in, like, two
weeks time. Because all the hard work is done before. All the
hard work is done, where Marshall or Doug and I will walk the
streets or sit in my living room and say, "What about this?"
that doesn't lead any place." "What about this?" Then we're silent
for fifteen minutes. And somebody says, "Maybe we should
rethink this and start over. Maybe he shouldn't be a banker.
Maybe he should be a jockey." That's the tedious stuff. When it's
all worked out, then I can get in a room and write it in two week's
time. It's nothing.

YOU WENT BACK TO MARSHALL BRICKMAN WITH
"MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY." IT CAME RIGHT
AFTER THE SPLIT WITH MIA FARROW. WAS THAT A
CONSCIOUS ATTEMPT TO DO [A LIGHTER COMEDY]?

ALLEN: No, not at all. There's no calculation in the sequence of
movies for me... As a matter of fact, "Manhattan Murder Mystery"
was written long before that. It was going to be me and Mia, she
was going to be the girl in it. And then when all that happened,
she dropped out and Diane [Keaton] came in and took over. But
that was not even written after that. That was written during our
best time.

YOU DID A DOZEN FILMS WITH MIA FARROW. HOW DO
YOU NOW ASSESS THE FILMS YOU MADE WITH HER?

ALLEN: One thing about Mia, she's a very underrated actress.
She's a wonderful actress, she's got a very good range. She can
play comedy. She can play serious things. And she's a very
convincing actress.

I did some of my best movies with her, like
"Purple Rose" and "Zelig." No, I feel I was very fortunate
professionally in my lifetime to have had a professional
relationship with Diane Keaton and Mia. Because they both gave
me great work. There was a tendency, I feel, for the public to take
Mia for granted and figure, well, she was from Hollywood. But
she was a much much more complex interesting actress than
she has been given credit for. When she did "Broadway Danny Rose"
with me, I thought she was just wonderful. And knowing her as
well as I knew her, I was able to tap her capabilities...If I just saw
her on the street, I wouldn't have known she could ever do
"Broadway Danny Rose." She's a wonderful actress.

[Most of this interview had never been published until now; a small part of
it appeared in my San Francisco Chronicle story on Dec. 19, 1999.]

_________________________________________________________

FROM NEW YORK NEWSDAY

Play It Again (and Again), Sam

By Paul Iorio

Woody Allen comes up with such memorable one-liners that it's

no surprise other writers steal from him. In fact, his lines are so funny

that even Allen can't resist taking a line from himself now and then. Here

are some examples of self-plagiarism in his films:

WOODY RECYCLING #1:

MARY: "I could go to bed with the entire faculty of M.I.T."
(from "Manhattan.")

VANESSA: "I [slept with] the entire Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity at Yale."
(from "Play it Again, Sam")

ANDREW: "You were...sleeping with the...entire infield of the Chicago
White Sox."
(from "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy")
* * *

WOODY RECYCLING #2:

ALVY: "Hey, don't knock masturbation."
(From "Annie Hall")

MICKEY: "Hey, you gonna start knocking [masturbation]?"
(From "Manhattan")

SANDY: "I am an absolute expert [on masturbation]."
(from "Stardust Memories")

LEONARD: "I teach a course...in [advanced] masturbation."
(From "Zelig")
* * *

WOODY RECYCLING #3:

IKE: "I'll turn into one of those guys that sells comic books outside of
Bloomingdale's."
(From "Manhattan")

MICKEY: "I'll wind up like the guy with the wool cap who delivers for the
florist."
(From "Hannah and Her Sisters")
* * *

WOODY RECYCLING #4:

DICK: "I...had the foresight to buy Polaroid at eight-and-a-half."
(From "Play It Again, Sam")

SALMON: "I bought Xerox at eight-and-a-half."
(From "Take the Money and Run")
* * *

WOODY RECYCLING #5:

FREDERICK: "I can't go out...I'm liable to kill someone."
(From "Interiors")

FREDERICK: "I just don't want to be around people. I don't want to wind up
abusing anyone."
(From "Hannah and Her Sisters")
* * *

WOODY RECYCLING #6:

JILL: "What were you doing lurking around outside the cabin, anyway?"
IKE: "I was spying on you guys."
(From "Manhattan")

ANNIE: "What were you doing following me around for, anyway?"
ALVY: "I'm following you and David."
(From "Annie Hall")

TINA: "You know about [the white roses] because you spy on me."
JOHNNY: "It's not spying when you care about someone."
(From "Broadway Danny Rose")
* * *

WOODY RECYCLING #7:

NARRATOR: "He rents a car and attempts to run her over."
(From "Take the Money and Run")

MARY: "Did you hear the one where he tried to run her lover over."
(From "Manhattan")
* * *

WOODY RECYCLING #8:

SANDY: "The universe is gradually breaking down. There's not gonna be
anything left."
(From "Stardust Memories")

ALVY: "The universe...will break apart, and that will be the end of
everything."
(From "Annie Hall")
* * *

WOODY RECYCLING #9:

DICK: [consoling Ike after argument about a TV show] "Take a 'lude."
(From "Manhattan")

RON: [consoling Mickey after argument about a TV show] "You want a
'lude?"
(From "Hannah and Her Sisters")

[From New York Newsday, March 1, 1992; all quotes from Allen scripts. (Note: This was wholly my piece, from idea to execution, and bears my sole byline, though in the print edition there is a nearby byline of another writer, in larger type, referring to other articles adjacent to mine, yet that other byline sort of makes it look like this was a co-written or co-researched piece, which it was not.)
]
__________________________________________


[PUBLISHED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE]


Dick Cavett, in the Mountains of Marin

By Paul Iorio

In the green mountains of Marin County, California, talk show pioneer

Dick Cavett is playing hooky from his day job as narrator of the upcoming

Broadway stage version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." "My

colleagues in 'Rocky' are sweating and laboring right now, and I'm supposed

to be there," he confides. "I feel like they're going to find where I'm hidden."


Cavett's hiding place, at least this afternoon, is Mill Valley, where he

is preparing to attend the Mill Valley Film Festival's tribute to him.


At 63, Cavett is still best-known for having brought witty, literate chat to

the airwaves with his ABC-TV talk show, "The Dick Cavett Show," which

aired from 1969 to 1973, and a PBS series, which ran from '77 to '82 -- shows

that regularly mixed artists and intellectuals with entertainers and

politicians.


Today, Cavett doesn't host a TV series but is still infallibly witty and

spontaneous, able to come up with a funny joke at will. For

example, when a clerk from a rental car company interrupts us and asks to

see Cavett's driver's license, he quips: "Can't I just describe it? It's

rectangular..."


What does he think of the current cultural landscape? His favorite show is

NBC's "Law and Order." "The early years of 'Law and Order' were as good

as anything that's ever been on television -- and it took me so long to realize

it," says Cavett, wearing a "Twisted Tales" baseball cap (named after the

show about animals he currently narrates on the Animal Planet channel).


Of his own talk show career, Cavett says his best show was the one that

featured playwright Noel Coward and the legendary actors Alfred Lunt and

Lynn Fontanne. "Jack Paar called it 'the greatest ninety minutes I've ever

seen on television,'" he says. "In a way, it was as good as it can get...I was

better than I was on other nights."


His most famous program is probably the one in which novelists Norman

Mailer and Gore Vidal nearly came to blows on the air. In that show, Mailer

made a surly entrance, refused to shake Vidal's outstretched hand, and

proceeded to insult Cavett, Vidal and another guest, New Yorker magazine

writer Janet Flanner. "I said [to Mailer], 'Would you like another chair to

help contain your giant intellect?' And he said, 'I'll accept the chair if

you'll all accept a fingerbowl,'" he recalls. "Mailer didn't quite get what

he meant out; a re-write would've done it."


"Then [Mailer] said the thing that I didn't know till then would anger me

most: 'Why don't you just read the next question off the question sheet,''" he

says. Cavett's famous response was "Why don't you fold it five ways and put

it where the moon don't shine?"


When the Mailer show was aired in Germany, where Cavett has a sizable

audience, the translator had difficulty translating the retort. "They were

baffled," he says of the Germans. "'Something about a moon on a shining

stick.'"


Other noteworthy moments in Cavett's career include candid appearances

by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a show in which segregationist governor

Lester Maddox walked off in anger, and one in which publisher J.I. Rodale

died during a taping (after saying, "I expect to live on and on").


He says network executives never objected to the controversy his shows

generated. "I think they were kind of tickled by the publicity," he says.


Cavett's observations about his celebrity guests are always fresh. On

Andy Warhol: "He had two tape recorders on at dinner...He said, 'One is

recording the other.'" On Johnny Carson: "To me, he's still the guy who I

first saw do a magic trick in [a] church basement in Lincoln Nebraska, when

I was ten or twelve." He also recalls coming upon a dissipated Judy Garland

in the mid-Fifties and initially mistaking her for a cleaning woman.


The last ten years have not always been kind to Cavett. His three-million

dollar house in Montauk burned down a few years ago, and he has recently

suffered from clinical depression. But he does seem genuinely happy to be

performing in "Rocky Horror," though he jokes, "I thought I was going to be

the guy who wore women's underwear and garters and high heel," referring to

the role that Tim Curry played in the film.


He's also considering a return to his roots as a stand-up comic with some

sort of one-man show. "I probably will" return to stand-up, says Cavett.

"Even revisit my old act and comment on it...if I could remember my old act."


When I ask about his reaction to the countless Cavett wannabes and

imitators over the decades, he answers by recalling an exchange between

Cary Grant and a fan: "A fan said, 'I would give anything to be Cary Grant.'

And [Grant] said, 'So would I.'"


[From the San Francisco Chronicle, October 9, 2000; original manuscript.]
_______________________________________


____________________________________________________
FROM SPY MAGAZINE


Why It's Not So Smart to Be Smart Anymore

(The Dumbification of America)

By Paul Iorio

Roman Polanski and Salman Rushdie are on the run. Woody Allen is

being hounded. Even Enrico Fermi is being called nasty things. Almost

everywhere, genius is being demonized and devalued. In movies, for

instance, a villain must be more than just an evil, violent psychopath; to be

truly feared and vilified today, it helps to be a genius. The gold

standard of celluloid evil genius is, of course, Hannibal Lecter of "The

Silence of the Lambs," who has spawned smart and wicked imitators ranging

from Tommy Lee Jones's character in "Blown Away" (who quotes T.S. Eliot)

to John Lithgow's bad guy in "Cliffhanger," who comes off like the

headmaster of a country day school.

Meanwhile, idiocy is being celebrated as something noble and pure in

movies like "Forrest Gump" and "Regarding Henry."

In real life, the new outlaws are geniuses like Allen, Polanski, and Michael

Jackson -- all accused, and one convicted, of a sex crime. Other recent

pariahs include scientific icons J. Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi,

irresponsibly called neo-traitors in a best-selling book; any artist funded by

an NEA grant (some of whom have been condemned as perverts on the floor

of the United States Senate); and computer wizards like the dazzlingly

sociopathic Kevin Mitnick, who raised major cyber-hell by penetrating

impenetrable computer systems at several corporations.

Clearly, being smart isn't such a smart idea anymore. In fact, it seems as if

some brainy people have had to dumb down just to stay employed. For a

time, even Meryl Streep, for example, abandoned big ambitions to become a

regular gal and action movie star (how long before she starts calling herself

Mary Streep?). Mario Cuomo tried, unsuccessfully, to keep his job by

running TV ads featuring an endearingly inarticulate supporter who

mispronounced his name as "Como," as in Perry, instead of Cuomo, as in

Aquinas. The trend can also be seen in TV ads like the one in which an

announcer asks something like: "Who's smarter -- this woman who shopped

at Sears or this prize-winning astrophysicist?"

Why does braininess have such a bad reputation these days?

Simply put, we don't like to be reminded there may be others who know

more than we do. As David Denby explained in his review of "Forrest

Gump": "A smart film hero, of course, would risk offending the many

Americans who now get angry if there's even a hint that they've been

outclassed."

Conversely, we're flattered by smart villains because we want to believe

that we are the victims of clever people, that we are locked in battle with an

exalted adversary, and not some dumb thug with a brick.

Oddly, the public doesn't seem to mind those who pretend to be smart but

are not smart (aka, the faux smart). In fact, lots of people prefer faux smarts

to the real thing, the same way some prefer fake wood to real wood because

fake wood doesn't rot, warp, or attract termites. Faux genius comes without

demons or neuroses; and it requires none of the tedious work of actually

writing a real novel or making a real film. All you needs is the paraphernalia

and accouterments of intelligence (say, nonprescription eyeglasses), and you,

too, can successfully mimic a smart person.

Plus, by being faux smart, you're spared the vilification of the truly

brilliant.

The first stop on the road to faux intelligence is a degree mill. Unlike

traditional universities, which make you do excruciatingly difficult things
(like

studying), degree mills will quickly and easily add a cheap string of

important-looking initials to the end of your name. So why bother enrolling

in a big-name school, when you can just as easily buy a degree in a few
hours

from a school whose name sounds equally prestigious to the inattentive and

badly informed?

If you aren't smart or affluent enough for, say, Bennington, try Barrington

in Burlington, Vermont, and see who can tell the difference on a resume. "If

you look at the name of the college...it appears that the name could be

mistaken by, let's say, foreign students for one or two other colleges that are

located in Vermont," says Robert Lorenz, an education specialist with the

Vermont Department of Education. "Bennington College comes to mind.

And there's a Barring -- Burlington as well."

The name also threw someone at the U.S. Department of Education.

"Barrington, not Bennington?," asked Education's Stephanie Babayak.

"[Degree mills] are very smart about giving themselves names that are

very close to legitimate institutions," says Charles Andersen of the American

Council on Education.

Can one at least assume that Barrington is located in the heart of Vermont

academia? Only if you consider Park Avenue South in Manhattan to be part

of Vermont. And when we called the school, we reached someone in...New

York.

"In the beginning, our understanding was that they would be located in

Vermont," Lorenz says. "Upon investigation, their 800 number appears to be

answered in the New York City metropolitan area. And their [Vermont]

address turns out to be a mail drop."

Posing as a prospective student, we soon discovered that Barrington was

virtually selling honorary degrees. "If you're interested in [an honorary

degree], yeah, there would be a donation involved," says Steven Bettinger,

president of Barrington. "You'd get a certificate and everything" for a total of

$1,400.

Bettinger then says that "a donation alone can't get the degree," but adds

that the only other major requirement is the passing of a credential

evaluation.

"That would be a resume and anything else you could add...any military,

just about anything." As far as actual programs of study, Bettinger says: "We

also have a Ph.D. program, which, you know, obviously you would do some

work."

Barrington is evidently breaking the law by granting degrees of any kind,

because it has not yet received approval to do so from the Vermont

Department of Education. Lorenz told us the matter is being reviewed by the

office of the state's Attorney General.

"Barrington registered as a correspondence school, and that is not the

same as having approval to grant degrees," says Lorenz. "My understanding

is that they are offering baccalaureate degrees after taking seven courses and

they offer no hassle from teachers, no hassle from quizzes, and an open book

final exam."

This College of Faux Smarts may be heading into legal trouble. "Granting

a degree without state approval would violate state law and be subject to a

fine of $1,000 per day," says Lorenz. Even honorary degrees? "There's no

distinction in the law between an honorary degree and another degree."

Some states are not nearly as strict about education as Vermont. Hawaii,

for example, is said to have some of the most lax regulations in the United

States. To understand this first-hand, we looked into the Eurotechnical

Research University, which is not located in Europe but in Hilo, Hawaii. We

think.

Whatever Eurotech might lack in conventional credibility, it more than

makes up for in mystery. Two of its representatives mentioned up-front that

the school has a separate college of martial arts, which, as anyone knows, is

the backbone of a small technical university. Eurotech also lists a Hawaii

address but has a Texas phone number and an administrator in Michigan.

The school's president, Robert Simpson, tries to clear up the mystery

with this explanation: "I commute to Hawaii to Australia to Florida and

Texas."

What's a possible reason for their Hawaii affiliation? "If you're filling

station, you can start awarding degrees in Hawaii," says Dave Stewart of the

American Council on Education.

I pressed Eurotech's president about the fastest way to get an MBA. "Let

me get to the bottom line: that degree will be ready [in about three months],"

he says, after hearing very little about my background. He went on to explain

that the master's program consists of two "modules," each with classes that

use texts, assignments, and possibly an audiotape. And all tests are open-

book, even the final. "That's the way busy people can get through it," he

says.

But Simpson draws the line at selling honorary degrees, insisting I stick to

the school's rigorous Euro-Hawaiian module regimen. "We were gonna do

[an honorary degree] for the President of Turkey," he says. "But my

predecessor died in the middle of the process and by the time I found out

about it, it was too late."

"Why the president of Turkey?," I ask.

"I have no idea," says Simpson.

Seeking something a bit less Euro-Hawaiian, I tried Summit University, a

"non-residence" university with central offices in Louisiana and provosts in

Ohio, Delaware and New York. One advisor, Kenneth Onapolis, offered a

passionate defense of the fast degree/faux smarts ethos.

"Anybody can earn an MBA by going to school...," Onapolis says.

"There's an easy way of doing it and there's a hard way of doing it."

The easy way? "We submit you with an examination that is equivalent to

the master's degree program that a university would offer...It's computer

graded...We expect you to go to libraries, contact relatives, friends, business

associates, colleagues, whatever, to get the answers to the questions."

And so, without having to put up with pesky grades and studying, students

can receive a master's degree after passing a single test and paying a few

thousand dollars.

Still, faux smarts must be about more than just taking open-book tests and

mixing with the Euro-Hawaiian elite. It probably wouldn't hurt to have some

sort of professional degree from a professional-sounding school. So I

contacted the Southern California University for Professional Studies

(SCUPS), which, in spite of its traditional Ph.D. programs, was all too glad

to strike a deal.

SCUPS offered to sell me an honorary law degree for $10,000 flat, despite

my lack of any prior legal experience. All we had to do, according to Lorrie

Weiland, an admissions counselor with the university, was send in a resume,

any certificates that I held, and a one-page explanation of why I wanted the

law degree.

"The first honorary degree we gave was to a gentleman from Korea,"

Weiland says.

"Why Korea?," I ask.

"We've had three different individuals fly in from Korea for degrees," she

says.

"Why Korea?," I ask.

"We're worldwide," she says.

"But yet all from Korea?," I say.

"It just happened," she says. "We just started doing it, and it just

happened..."

"So who are they? Businessmen?," I ask.

"Businessmen, yes. They were all businessmen," she says.

"Did they make a contribution to the university?," I ask.

"Yes, oh, yes. You'd pay the same [for the honorary law degree] as you'd

pay for the [actual degree]," she says.

SCUPS, along with Eurotech and Barrington, are not officially accredited

schools, unless you count their ostensible "accreditation" by an organization

called the World Association of Universities and Colleges (WAUC).

"[WAUC] is not an accrediting association that's recognized by either the

Commission on Recognition of Post-secondary Accreditation or the U.S.

Department of Education, which are the only ones that count in this county,"

says Education's Dave Stewart, an expert on degree mills. [Since this article

first ran, the Commission has been supplanted by another agency.] "I have a

number of inquiries on [SCUPS], one from a student who said he's been

trying to track it down. The last address I have for them is Las Vegas, which

figures."

We called WAUC president Maxine Asher and asked her about the

curious Las Vegas address. "I lived in Los Angeles and after the earthquake

in January [1994] I moved to Las Vegas to get away from the earthquake,"

she says. "Well, I set up everything there but then I moved back to L.A., but

things were working so well that I'm going to leave it in [Las Vegas] with

the legal office in Switzerland. It's not a good reason but that's what

happened."

Wait a minute? Legal offices in Switzerland? Operations in Vegas?

Between this Swiss-Vegas connection and Summit's Euro-Hawaiian alliance

-- not to mention all those Korean gentlemen -- faux smarts appears to have

truly gone worldwide.

But faux genius can't ever be fully achieved with mere Swiss-Vegas

schmoozing. One also needs the faux accomplishment of, say, a book deal

from a vanity press. And by no means is there a shortage of companies eager

to publish virtually anything for a price.

Under the pen name of Jonathan Swift, I called Marketing Director Dan

Heise at Evanston Publishing and presented him with a modest proposal.

"Jon Swift is the name I write under," I told him. "I have two ideas that

are kind of controversial...One is a non-fiction book on the medical

ramifications of cannibalism. It would be about what parts of the body you

would ignore [while eating]. For example, don't eat this, eat that; if you want

carbohydrates, eat that. Almost a practical guide to [cannibalism]."

"How would you go about assessing the value of something like that?,"

asked Heise.

"Through doctors," I said. "Have doctors say, 'Well, this would be

something you'd want to avoid, this would be poisonous, this part would

provide carbs, protein, et cetera.' Start with the premise that [the movie]

'Alive' started with..."

"Something that people had an interest in, however morbid," said Heise.

"They ate it up."

"Precisely," I said. "Would you have a problem with that?"

"I don't think we would," says Heise. "That sounds like -- although it

would be controversial, it doesn't sound like it would be patently offensive or

derogatory towards anyone. So I think it's definitely going to be taken into

consideration."

"Here's the other one, and that is, like, one of those novelty books," I said.

"It's the wit of someone who is not really known for anything except being

very, very serious, and that is the wit of Saddam Hussein."

"God, that would be hilarious," says Heise.

"Believe it or not, you would be surprised, people who have covered this

guy in Baghdad, they have collected a lot of quips from him," I said.

"The wit and wisdom of Saddam Hussein!," says Heise, laughing.

"Like, when the Republican Guard was defeated, he turned to someone

and said, 'Frankly, I'd rather be in Port Palma" or something. When his oil

wells were being bombed, he said something to the effect -- I don't have the

exact quote in front of me -- but something like, 'A couple million gallons

here, a couple million gallons there, it starts to add up,'" I said.

Heise laughs.

"It'd be a cute fifty-pager," I said.

"To tell the truth, I think that would be a hot, a hot item!," says Heise. "It

depends on the reaction you'd get from distributors and chain stores, et
cetera.

Because if they don't like it, then it's not gonna go anywhere. But it seems to

me to be the kind of thing that would definitely get people's attention, and

that's what you've got to do in this business. Especially if you made it

something like a $6.95 impulse item or even a calendar."

I then shopped the same ideas to Vantage Press, the premiere vanity

publisher, making our pitch to Vantage Editor Walter Kendall.

"My idea is a compilation of...the wit of Saddam Hussein," I said. "Many

of the people who have covered him in Baghdad understand that he is really
a

first-rate wit, and they have compiled some [quips] from press conferences...

Would you have a problem with something like that?"

"Not that I imagine," said Kendall.

"The other idea, which is kind of chancy, is, if you've seen the movie

'Alive,' it broaches the subject of cannibalism," I said. "I've actually done

about 100 pages of a book [on] the real story on [cannibalism]: what part of

the human body would be 'forget it, don't eat it'...Is that something that
would

create any type of problem?"

"Well, not theoretically," said Kendall. "...Based on the subject, I

wouldn't see a problem. But we'd have to see the book before we make a

final determination."

"Are there any subjects that you don't approach at all?," I asked.

"Well, we don't do pornography," said Kendall. "And we don't do things

that are libelous."

Having closed my second faux book deal of the day, I took stock.

Cannibalism is in, libel out; Saddam is in, pornography out. Does that mean

I could write about eating Saddam but can't libel him?

Trying to make sense of all this, I looked back upon the several hours of

my academic/publishing career. To achieve faux smarts, it seems, all I had to

do was scrape together around $15,000. That breaks down this way: I could

buy a quick MBA, after taking open-book tests, for roughly $3,000; an

honorary doctorate for $1,400; and an honorary law degree for $10,000.

With that money, I could afford to publish my vanity books on "A Practical

Guide to Cannibalism" and "The Wit of Saddam."

Hold on. Was that offer from Vintage or Vantage? And was that school

Bennington or Barrington? In Vermont or Hawaii? Or Zurich? Oh, never

mind. Those are minor distinctions to the faux smart. As Spinal Tap's Nigel

Tufnel once put it, "There's a fine line between clever and stupid."


[From Spy magazine, January 1995.]
____________________________________________________________

PUBLISHED HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME

The Poetry of Borat Sagdiyev

By Paul Iorio

Yes, Borat Sagdiyev is a faux journalist and documentary maker,

but who knew he was a poet, too?

Hard to believe, but a close listen to what Borat says

in the movie "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make

Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" reveals a hidden

poetry that is unmistakably, uniquely...Boratian. Here are

eight examples, taken verbatim (or virtually verbatim) from

the picture:


King of the castle, king of the castle
Have a chair, have a chair
Go do this! Go do this!
King of the castle

* * * *

Do not fear me, gypsy
All I want from you is my tears
Please give them to me or
I will take them...
I will look in your treasures, gypsy

* * * *

I came to America to learn lessons...
But what had I learned?
Suddenly I realized
I had learned that if you chase a dream
Especially one with a plastic chest
You can miss the real beauty
in front of your eyes

* * * *

Will you please teach me how to dine like gentlemen?
...Is it polite to greet people when I make entry?
...Should I pay interest in people around the table...?
...What do you do?
...What do you do?

* * * *

I have no friends
I am alone in this country
Nobody like me
My only friend...he take my money and my bear
And he leave me alone
Not only this:
The woman I love, the reason I travel across the country
She had to do something terrible on a boat
And now I can never forgive her
Is there anybody who can help me?

* * * *

I arrive in America's airport
With clothing, U.S. dollars
And a jar of gypsy tears
to protect me...

* * * *

In Kazakhstan it is illegal
for more than five woman to be in the same place
Except for in brothel
or in grave

* * * *

I took a bus to Los Angeles with some friends of Mr. Jesus
I have arrived
Happy times.

[Published here for the first time, January 22, 2007.]
____________________________________________________



Tracy Chapman, Live at Carnegie Hall, November 28, 1988.

By Paul Iorio

Before describing what happened at Tracy Chapman's Carnegie Hall

concert, let's first picture the opposite of a Chapman show:

Chapman struts onstage in spandex and spikes, followed by her band

("My love boys," she growls), which includes Mark "The Animal" Mendoza

of Twisted Sister, and Philthy Animal of Motorhead.

"Yo, New York! We're Tracy Chapman and the Love Boys. Are you

ready to par-tay?! I can't hear ya. I said, are you ready for some maniac

music?!" She blasts into an ear-splitting version of "Money (That's What I

Want)," taking a solo in a duck-walk with her Strat between her legs,

segueing into a metalized "Material Girl."

Swigging from a fifth of Jack Daniels, she belts "Louie Louie," turning it

into a 12-minute garage odyssey. When confused fans shout for the sensitive

urban vignettes on her debut album, she roars back: "I - I - I just wrote those

to make it big! The whole shy thing was to get me some attention, get me

some -- "

Philthy Animal finishes the sentence, while pulling the ends of a dollar

bill:

"...to get some sympathy," he chortles, breaking into the opening chords of

the Stones's "Sympathy for the Devil."

For the set-closer, Mendoza plays Jagger to Chapman's Turner for some

bumpin' 'n' grindin' on a sizzling "Proud Mary." As the band leaves the stage,

one front row fan loudly requests "Behind the Wall," Chapman's sensitive a

cappella tale of domestic violence. To which Mendoza, visibly annoyed,

retorts, "Sure, I'll play it. BANG! ZOOM!," he yells, slamming his palm

with his fist. Chapman laughs rudely.

The fictitious scenario above seems, er, unlikely, if only because

Chapman, at age 24, has already defined an unusually sure and definite

public persona. Honest and shy, she set a reverential tone at Carnegie Hall, where

she played solo on a stage that was bare except for a microphone stand and

two small speaker monitors (not even a chair or extra guitars). This allowed

the audience to see and hear her as she must have appeared on street corners

in Boston back when.

[From the East Coast Rocker, December 7, 1988.]

__________________________________________

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES


The Jack Nicholson Quiz
(You Know What He Means?)


By Paul Iorio


Jack Nicholson started his career as

a sort of streetwise older brother to baby


boomers. While everyone else was innocently

preaching love in the 1960s, Mr. Nicholson

was teaching us the pleasures of experience,

punctuating his revelations with a trademark

phrase; "You know what I mean?"


"You know what I mean?" spices even the

blandest lines, adding a knowin resonance,

a leering innuendo. Mr. Nicholson could

probably create a provocative

double-entendre by attaching the

phrase to almost anything, even "Jingle Bells"

("Jingle all the way, you know

what I mean?").


How well do you know what Mr. Nicholson

means? Match the line to the

movie.


1. "She crossed her
legs a little too
quick, you
understand what
I mean?"

2. "I'll be seeing
you on the outside,
you know
what I mean?"

3. "It only gives
us a week to do it,
you know what
I mean?"

4. "I'd get a new
sign...neon,
something flashy,
you know what I
mean?"

5. "Twenty-five
dollars is not
too bad; no razor
blades, you know
what I mean?


WHICH MOVIES ARE THE ABOVE LINES FROM?

A. Easy Rider
B. The Postman Always Rings Twice
C. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
D. The Last Detail
E. Chinatown


ANSWERS: 1-E; 2-C; 3-D; 4-B; 5-A

[From The New York Times, June 12, 1994.]
____________________________________________________________________

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY -- PUBLISHED FOR THE FIRST TIME



The Buzz



Original Screenplay

By Paul Iorio
copyright 1995



Opening credits roll to the music of The Kinks's song "Top of the Pops,"
which begins with a flashy drum roll and the spoken words, "Yes, it's number
one, it's top of the pops!" (it's a song about the glory of going to the top of
the record charts).

Credits end and action begins at:

INT. THE RITZ NIGHTCLUB, GREENWICH VILLAGE -- NIGHT

From the balcony level, we see a punk band roaring through a chaotic set,
with the singer wearing only underwear, the bassist spitting beer in the air, the
bass drum bearing the name of the band, The Amazing Graces. The crowd
moshes wildly in the front rows.

Two twentysomething pals, TONY ARMONICA and ALEX DARROW,
watch the show from the balcony. Tony, a music journalist, is dressed a bit
conservatively by rock standards, in a white shirt, beige khakis and with short
hair, sort of David Byrne-style. Alex, the black director of music sales charts
for Big Hitz magazine, is wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a t-shirt with a
green comic book Spiderman on it.

The band ends its set with blaring feedback, and Alex and Tony file out with
the rest of the crowd.

TONY

Some gig, huh?

ALEX

Scorcher.

PAGE TWO


EXT. THE RITZ -- NIGHT

Alex and Tony walk from the Ritz in the Village amidst throngs of fans in
torn jeans and t-shirts reading Husker Du, Soul Asylum, the Ramones and
SST. The club's marquee -- "Tonight: The Amazing Graces -- Sold Out" --
recedes in the background as Alex and Tony are seen (but not heard) chatting
on the way to Tony's car.

The two get in Tony's Fiat and we see the post-concert street scene through
the windshield from their POV.

TITLE CARD: Memorial Day, 1987

Tony drives off with Alex.

INT. CAR -- NIGHT

TONY

This time last year the bandmembers were office temps.
Now they pack the Ritz.

ALEX

Actually, a couple of 'em are still temping, I hear.

TONY

They'd be top ten, if the charts were honest.

ALEX

So would R.E.M.



PAGE THREE
TONY

Speaking of which, wanna hear an advance tape of R.E.M.'s
new one? It's called "Document."

ALEX

Sure.

The traffic is stalled ahead in his lane, and Tony gets impatient, pulling into
the lane for oncoming traffic before rejoining his lane.

TONY

Fifth gear sure comes in handy.

ALEX

Man, you coulda got us killed.

TONY

It worked, didn't it?

ALEX

Sometimes I dunno about you. You're either really brave
or really suicidal.

Tony slips in a cassette, and we hear REM's "It's The End of the World As
We Know It" at medium volume as they small talk.

TONY

So how's the new job? Hear you're running
the charts at Big Hitz, my alma mater.


PAGE FOUR

ALEX

Sucks.

TONY

Hear the magazine's still got a great dental plan: on
your first day, they hand you a toothbrush.

ALEX

Oh, yeah.

TONY

One minute you're Alex the lowly researcher
and the next you're in charge of the Hot 100.
Did I miss something?

ALEX

Did I miss something? My boss, that Joe Montana guy,
comes in last week real nervous and suddenly quits.

TONY

Like that?

ALEX

Like that.

TONY

No explanation?


PAGE FIVE

ALEX

No nothing. He gave up twelve years of seniority!

TONY

Why do you think he did it?

ALEX

Dunno. Maybe the pressure, the promoters.
They're always like, "Gimme a top ten."

TONY

A what?

ALEX

A top ten number on the charts for their record.
It's like, "Hey, Montana usedta give me a number
for an advertisement or a few bucks."

TONY

[shocked] Really? That's sure not how they
do it at Billboard or R&R.

ALEX

Well, this aint Billboard. And I'm getting
tired of sending back the fifty dollar bills in his cassettes.

TONY

You mentioned it to the big boss, Sterling?

PAGE SIX

ALEX

It's always, "Uh, no time."

They stop at a red light and notice the high beams of the car behind them.

TONY

High beams. What a jerk. I wish cars had
high beams in the back so I could retaliate.

A bus passes with a huge display ad reading: "U2 at the Garden, July 15."
Tony tries to jot the date but his pen breaks.

TONY

You gotta pen?

ALEX

Here. [Alex hands him a novelty promotional pen
with a tuning fork at the end.] Keep it.

TONY

You sure that's a pen?

ALEX

Yeah. A Buzzpen.

TONY

Buzzpen?



PAGE SEVEN

ALEX

The Buzz sends 'em out. It's a pen and a tuning
fork and it buzzes.

Alex demonstrates, taking the pen from Tony and hitting the dashboard with
it, causing a buzz. He hands the pen back to Tony, who writes down the date
of the U2 show.
TONY

So who's The Buzz?

ALEX

Local promoter. CHR radio, singles mostly. Real
name is Frank Buzzardo or something. Promotes
losers who can't chart.

The high beams of the car behind them fills the car with light.

TONY

High beams again. Prick.

Tony arrives at Alex's apartment house in the west Village (on Ninth Street
off Sixth Ave.) and parks the car.

ALEX

Here we are at my rent stabilized abode.

TONY

Is Susan staying at your place tonight?



PAGE EIGHT

ALEX

No, she's at hers. Hey, you gotta come
upstairs; I just bought the campiest album
of all-time: "The Tom Jones Fever Zone" LP
from 1969.

TONY

"The Tom Jones Fever Zone"! [laughs] Where'd you get that?

ALEX

Rocks in Your Head.

Alex looks out the window and gazes briefly at a nearby car that has
autumnal leaf and flower droppings on its roof and hood (unlike all the other
nearby cars).

TONY

I'll come up for a few. But only if I can
watch the Carson monologue.

ALEX

You got it.

Tony turns off the ignition but the R.E.M. tape continues, now playing the
ominous "King of Birds."

ALEX

Y'know, we oughta connect for Bowie at the
Meadowlands next week. I've been looking
forward to it since --

PAGE NINE

Alex is interrupted by someone with a ski mask at his window who raises a
revolver; Alex quickly rams his door into the gunman and runs for his life
down 9th St. The gunman drops his gun and is briefly knocked aside by the
car door but recovers his revolver and chases Alex at top speed. The gunman
has a slight limp that doesn't slow him a bit. Tony runs after the gunman, who
is far ahead of him.
ALEX (running)

Shit! I'm dying already!

TONY (running after gunman)

Run, Alex! Don't look back! Run!

The gunman shoots once at Alex and misses, then shoots from a half-block's
distance, blowing off part of Alex's left shoulder. Alex falls to the ground
shouting in pain. The gunman runs toward Alex, bends over him and puts
two bullets in his head at very close range before running off into the deserted
night. Tony watches in horror as he runs over to Alex's body and falls to his
knees. (In the background we see Tony's car, the doors open, the car's tape
player playing the droning ending of "King of Birds," with the lyrics,
"Everybody hit the ground, everybody hit the ground.") He screams "Alex!"
once, and the screen goes black.

CUT TO:

INT. POLICE STATION -- NIGHT

An overhead fan spins as Tony, sweaty and raw from the heat and the night's
trauma, sits at a rectangular table in a dimly lit police interrogation room.
Flies are buzzing and the air conditioning is out. The wall clock reads 11:50.

A rotund DETECTIVE DALEY walks in, munching on peanuts and
accidentally bumping into a couple chairs. His assistant, a deferential rookie
named QUAIL, walks behind him.


PAGE TEN
DETECTIVE DALEY

[Pulls up a chair noisily, looks down at the police report
and says to Quail:] Looks like we have a 125,
maybe a 125.27, and definitely a 240, a definite 120,
a possible 460, but we have to know more.
And we need to investigate the possibility
of a 105. Got that?

OFFICER QUAIL

Yessir. How 'bout a 160?

DETECTIVE DALEY

No 160; no robbery involved.
[He turns to Tony.] So what can you tell me?
Did ya get a look at the guy who did it?

TONY

He was in a ski mask. Maybe six feet, 200 pounds,
running with a sort of limp. But that's about it.
[Tony swats at a fly with his hand.]

DET. DALEY

[Glances at a TV monitor with sound down on the wall.]
Hold on: looks like something's on the news about
the case. [He gestures to Quail to turn up the TV, and Quail
quickly does so.]

A local news station is on the air with the words "Breaking News" on the
screen. An anchor appears.




PAGE ELEVEN
NEWS ANCHOR (on TV)

This just in to the newsroom. At this hour, police are
investigating the murder of a 23-year-old music industry
employee in Manhattan. The victim -- whose name
is being withheld pending notification of his family -- was
reportedly chased down West Ninth St. and shot at close range
by a person wearing a ski mask and gloves. We'll have more
details on this as they become available. For now, our features
correspondent in Coney Island has an update on Clara, the
panda bear who shocked her owner last week by supposedly
speaking several complete sentences in French.

DET. DALEY

A talking panda bear. Now I seen it all.
[He stuffs peanuts in his mouth and motions
to Quail to cut the sound, which he does. He turns
to Tony again.] So is there anything else you can tell
us about what happened? Did he have any enemies
that you know of?

TONY

None I know of. Though he did mention he was being pressured
to acccept bribes at work. He ran the music charts for
a trade magazine.

Daley jots notes, glances at his watch and seems not entirely interested in the
case.
DET. DALEY

So there was pressure on the job but no real enemies
that you know of. Okay, I think we have enough for now.
We really have to break off here.



PAGE TWELVE
TONY

Can I use the phone to call his girlfriend?

DET. DALEY

Sure. On the desk there. You can have the room
to yourself.

[Daley and Quail leave the room and shut the door. Tony picks up the phone,
dials Alex's girlfriend SUSAN ADLER and hears "hello."]

TONY (talking on the phone)

Susan, hi.

INTERCUT TO:

INT. SUSAN ADLER'S APT. ON WASHINGTON SQUARE -- NIGHT

[Susan, with long black hair and jeans, sits near a window overlooking the
arch in Washington Square Park in the Village.]

SUSAN (on the phone)

[playfully] Hey, Tony. So why aren't you busy
reviewing the Amazing Graces? [We hear Tony from
her phone: "Sit down, Susan. There's some
bad news."]

SUSAN (on phone)

You sound terrible. What happened? Where's Alex?





PAGE THIRTEEN

INTERCUT BACK TO:

INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- NIGHT

TONY (on phone)

Uh, we didn't -- I mean, he didn't -- he didn't --

[We hear Susan from his phone: "He didn't what?"]

TONY (on phone)

We ran into a problem. Alex is gone. He's been
shot. I couldn't help him. [He bangs his fist on the table.]
Dammit, I told him to run! I told him to run! [Tony
breaks into tears and the conversation ends. Screen
goes black.]

CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: Three Days Later

Tony, visiting several music industry executives as part of his investigation of
Alex's death, stops at a corporate office on West 57th St., the headquarters of
the small Pacific Records label, whose president is STAN TILDEN.

INT. RECEPTION AREA OF STAN TILDEN'S OFFICE -- DAY

Tony pushes open the glass door (bearing the words "Pacific Records -- Stan
Tilden, President") and approaches the RECEPTIONIST, a new wave
looking woman in her early twenties.

RECEPTIONIST

Stan's been waiting for you. Come in.


PAGE FOURTEEN

INT. STAN TILDEN'S OFFICE -- DAY

Tony walks into Tilden's office, which has a 25th-floor view of midtown
Manhattan and gold records on the walls. On one wall is a framed yellowed
Billboard magazine clipping with the headline: "Pacific Signs Brendan
Skye." Tilden, who looks a bit liked Harry Dean Stanton in his thirties, still
speaks with a southeastern accent, a holdover from his North Carolina
upbringing, though he's a long-time New Yorker.

TILDEN

Glad you could come.

TONY

My pleasure.

They both shake hands and sit down.

TILDEN

I hear you're investigating Alex's murder. Any idea
who did it?

TONY

Not yet. [Tony takes out his tape recorder and puts it on
his desk.] Mind if I record this?

TILDEN

No, go ahead.

TONY

Alex told me he had had lunch with you the day he died.

PAGE FIFTEEN
TILDEN

We did. He was scared that day.

TONY

Of what?

TILDEN

Look, Tony, I want this so far off the record we're in
Guam, hear?

TONY

Okay, we're in Guam.

TILDEN

[pause] Alex told me the pressure was getting to be more
than he could bear. Promoters wanted to buy their way to
the top of the charts. [Lights a cigarette nervously.] I run
Pacific Records, so I shouldn't even be talking to you. But I
loved that kid. So let me put it this way: Let's suppose.

TONY

Okay.

TILDEN

Let's suppose promoters paid for a top ten position by
overpaying for advertisements in the magazine. Y'know,
placing a full-pager but paying double.

TONY

Just supposing.

PAGE SIXTEEN

TILDEN

And suppose everybody before Alex, including Joe Montana,
always took the bribes, but Alex didn't.

TONY

Who was pressuring him most?

TILDEN

I don't name no names. But it can be figured out. Just
look at who was taking out advertisements in the
weeks before the murder and see if the advertised record got
a number in Big Hitz that was higher -- substantially higher --
than the honest number in Billboard.

TONY

But Big Hitz and Billboard have different reporting
stations, don't they?

TILDEN

Not that different. Also, look at the Big Hitz number for
the advertised record the week Alex took over compared
to its number during the last week Montana worked. In
other words, look at the charts the first week the bribes
weren't happening. Just supposin' now.

TONY

But how do you connect the ads to any one person?




PAGE SEVENTEEN


TILDEN

The promoter's name is listed at the bottom of the ad.
That's your man.

TONY

Alright tell me this: why would a singer pay to get on a chart
everyone knows is rigged?

TILDEN

'Cause not everyone knows it's rigged. A high chart
number in any trade's a huge boost. See,
Big Hitz may be out to lunch, but it's out to lunch in 17
countries and Puerto Rico -- the only trade besides Billboard that's
worldwide. So promoters'll pay $10-$15 thou per record.

TONY

It's that serious?

TILDEN

Someone's dead, aint they? You tell me. [He gets
buzzed by the receptionist.] Look, gotta step. But good
luck with finding out who did this. By the way,
how's Brendan?

TONY

He's fine. Still managing Custer.




PAGE EIGHTEEN

TILDEN

I'm glad I signed Brendan back in '79 but his record
just didn't sell. We did everything we could. I
really wish him well in management. And I always tell
him, if he ever runs into any financial trouble to call
my brother Paul on Wall Street.

TONY

Thanks for your time. [He takes his tape recorder
and puts it in his bag.]

Tony walks through the reception area (the receptionist waves sweetly),opens
the glass doors and walks out into the waiting area for the elevator.

INT. ELEVATOR WAITING AREA -- DAY

Tony waits for the elevator and is abruptly approached by an absurdly
FEARFUL GUY in his forties wearing slightly ridiculous cloak-and-dagger
garb, his collar pulled up and a hat pulled down.

FEARFUL GUY

[Comically nervous] Are you that reporter
asking about the murder?

TONY

I'm a reporter, yeah.

FEARFUL GUY

Well, I'm Calvin Hoover, indie promoter. And I know the
secret story behind the Darrow murder. [Looks around
furtively.] It was a mistaken identity hit.

PAGE NINETEEN

TONY

How do you know that?

CALVIN HOOVER

The killer wanted to murder me instead. He mistook
Alex for me.

TONY

[incredulous] You?! Are you serious?

CALVIN HOOVER

Yes, because I'm very outspoken, controversial.

TONY

Mr. Hoover --

CALVIN

Calvin.

TONY

Calvin, with all due respect, you don't look anything like
Alex. I mean, you're white and Alex is black.
Alex was in his twenties and you're not.

Calvin is startled by a loud ring from the elevator, which has just arrived.

CALVIN HOOVER

Oh, no! They're coming for me! I can feel it!

PAGE TWENTY

Calvin runs for the stairway and disappears.

Tony shakes his head, smiles and calmly boards the elevator.

CUT TO:

INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- DAY

Tony sits down at the rectangular table, the overhead fan spinning.

DET. DALEY

So you're investigating the murder as a freelancer.

TONY

Yeah. Wondering if you have any leads yet?

DET. DALEY

Nothing that would've caused a bloody nose much
less murder.

TONY

People in certain circles say it was music-related, he was
killed because he refused bribes.

DET. DALEY

We've looked into that, talked to the main promoters:
Dykstra, Vance Wurmland, that guy Tom Coffee. What
a character, that Tom Coffee. He'll talk your ear off about
Presley. [Imitating him] "Elvis owes me money!"



PAGE TWENTY-ONE

TONY

He told me that, too.

They share a laugh.

TONY

Everyone's pointing to a promo guy named Frank Buzzardi,
nicknamed The Buzz.

DET. DALEY

[turns red in the face] Who?

TONY

Buzzardi. Three completely separate sources went out
of their way to say he might be involved.

DET. DALEY

Who says that?

TONY

That's confidential.

DET. DALEY

[Trying to change the subject.] So did you know Alex well?

TONY

Oh, yeah. Met him right after I moved to Manhattan
from Burbank.

PAGE TWENTY-TWO

Tony's face is seen in a tight shot, as he flashes back in memory.

CUT TO:

EXT. AERIAL VIEW OF SAN FERNANDO VALLEY -- AFTERNOON

We see vast stretches of deep suburbia, palm trees and lots of sunlight that
contrast with the dim police station of the previous scene.

TONY [voiceover]

I came up in the San Fernando Valley suburbs, where
my first real job was as a newswriter for the
Los Angeles Chronicle.

EXT. THE L.A. CHRONICLE OFFICES -- AFTERNOON

Wide shot of the newspaper building and adjacent hotel (on Sunset Blvd. east
of Fairfax in L.A.). There's a sign saying: "Temporary Offices of the L.A.
Chronicle" and a next door sign reading: "Mirage Motel: Weekly Rates."

CUT TO:

INT. NEWSROOM OF THE L.A. CHRONICLE -- AFTERNOON

A younger Tony (circa 1979) sits at his newsroom desk while an EDITOR
with a serious sunburn, Barnum Wiggles, stands over him against a
backdrop of loud overhead florescent lights.

EDITOR

Okay, no more daredevil stuff. I heard you chased the
guy on trial for killing his wife -- the CEO of
Palentine -- down the courthouse hallway, asking him
repeatedly whether he had found the murderer of
his wife yet.


PAGE TWENTY-THREE

TONY

I sure did. He always says he's looking for the killer and
denies he murdered his wife. So I simply asked whether he
had found the culprit.

EDITOR

Three times?

TONY

He didn't answer me the first two.

EDITOR

I guess it wouldn't mean anything if you knew he sits on
the board of a company that was one of our biggest
advertisers.

TONY

No, it wouldn't.

EDITOR

Look, Tony, the "without fear-or-favor" thing only applies
to non-advertisers. We've got to fear and favor our boosters
if we're going to stay in business. And if that's not okay
with you, you're free to go to Greenwich Village [he
pronounces it Green-witch] or some place.

TONY (voice over)

So I did.


PAGE TWENTY-FOUR


CUT TO:

EXT. AERIAL SHOT OF MANHATTAN SKYLINE -- AFTERNOON

The dramatic opening chords of The Cars's "Bye Bye Love" accompany an
aerial view of midtown Manhattan that shifts toward the East Village. The
panorama moves lower and lower toward the East Village as the song
continues, gradually zooming to street level on the Bowery near Bleecker
Street.

TITLE CARD: The spring of 1979, the East Village.

EXT. BLEECKER STREET SIDEWALK -- DAY

Tony walks west along Bleecker Street from the CBGBs rock club.

The sidewalk is crowded with New Wave and Punk aficionados in their early
twenties wearing wraparound shades, Fiorucci pants, and t-shirts with the
names of bands and clubs like Richard Hell, the Mudd Club, the Gang of
Four.

People are carrying copies of newspapers and fanzines like the New York
Rocker, the East Village Eye and the Soho Weekly News. We hear the
Talking Heads's "City" as Tony, with a slightly spikey haircut and a
characteristically conservative button-down shirt, walks to the offices of the
East Village Eye.

EXT. EAST VILLAGE EYE NEWSPAPER BUILDING -- AFTERNOON

Tony walks into a building on Bleecker that has an East Village Eye sign in
the window; there's an incidental sign nearby reading "Tailors since 1919."





PAGE TWENTY-FIVE

CUT TO:

INT. EAST VILLAGE EYE NEWSPAPER OFFICE -- AFTERNOON

Tony walks through the loft offices of the Eye, which is divided by partitions
into large cubicles adorned with rock posters, bumper stickers and buttons.

A young Alex is deep in thought, editing copy in front of a poster reading, "If
It Aint Stiff, It Aint Worth A Shit" and "Nuke the Knack" as Squeeze's "Up
the Junction" plays from a turntable.

TONY

Mistah Alex!

ALEX

[Initially startled] My main man!

They high five each other.

ALEX

[Holds up a telephone message.] Message from Brendan
Skye, that folksinger guy.

TONY

What'd he want?

ALEX

Says your glowing review landed him a record deal.




PAGE TWENTY-SIX

TONY

Really? With who?

ALEX

Pacific Records. He was signed by Stan Tilden himself.
Might get the opening spot on the Steve Forbert tour.

TONY

Wow. Gotta call 'im.

ALEX

So who's on the cover, chief?

TONY

Toss-up: the Clash or the Records. Whatdya think?

ALEX

"Starry Eyes" is huge.

TONY

Yeah, but we've got a real Clash scoop: they're playing
a secret benefit for the East Village Hunger Project.

ALEX

As part of their 30 nights or whatever at Bonds?




PAGE TWENTY-SEVEN


TONY

Separate. Nobody knows about it yet, not even the
Soho Weekly News. I found out through a political
source: Susan Adler.

ALEX

Susan Adler? Never heard of her.

TONY

She's amazing. She approached Joe Strummer cold backstage
and convinced him to do the show for free.

ALEX

That's something.

TONY

She's something. She comes from old money in the Village
but donates most of it to stuff like building schools in
El Salvador. Lives right on Washington Square. We did a
photo shoot of her with members of the Clash.

Tony takes out photos of a younger Susan with the band. Susan, dark-
skinned and pretty, with a haircut like a campanile bell, smiles warmly
in one picture. In another shot, she mischievously flashes the "v" sign behind
Joe Strummer's head.
ALEX

Hmm. I think I'm in love. [pause] Is that a
conflict-of-interest? [They laugh.]


PAGE TWENTY-EIGHT

CUT BACK TO:

INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- AFTERNOON

At the desk, with the overhead fan turning, Tony and the detective continue
talking.

TONY

Any other leads you can tell me about?

DET. DALEY

We're checking a witness who says she saw a male
black running from the scene.

TONY

A black male?

DET. DALEY

Yeah, a male black, which would sort of refute your
theory, right? It might just be some black guy
who did it.

TONY

[slightly angry] What do you mean, 'just some black guy'?!

DET. DALEY

I'm just saying what the witness said. [Suspicious and going
on the offensive a bit.] And by the way, how come
you seem to know so much about this case anyway?


PAGE TWENTY-NINE


TONY

Shoe leather and phone calls, simple as that. [Stands
up and pulls out a business card.] Here's my card. Feel
free to call if you find something.

DET. DALEY

[Popping chewing gum in his mouth and eyeing
Tony suspiciously.] Uh huh.

Tony leaves the room.

CUT TO:

INT. BRENDAN SKYE'S WEST VILLAGE BROWNSTONE -- DINNER
HOUR

BRENDAN SKYE, a bearded mid-thirties former folksinger who now
manages alternative rock acts for a living, opens the door.

They hug as sunlight streams at a late-afternoon angle.

BRENDAN

Am I glad to see you in one piece!

TONY

Same here.

Tony steps into the living room, which is full of light, plants, a couple cats,
and a framed poster: "Brendan Skye Live at Folk City."



PAGE THIRTY

GENEVA MASON, wife of Brendan, comes in with a coffee cup that has a
Barnard College decal on it; she has very short blonde hair and wears a
Phranc t-shirt. The coffee is steaming and the air-conditioning is on. She
embraces Tony.
GENEVA

I'm so sorry about what happened. Are you okay?

TONY

I'm alright.

GENEVA

Have you seen Susan?

TONY

Not since I told her the news that night.

BRENDAN

Geneva's been visiting her just about every other night.
Says she seems depressed.

TONY

I'm not. I'm angry. I wanna find out who did this.

BRENDAN

Be careful. For all you know, you'll be fighting 50 thugs.

TONY

50 thugs, 50 bullets.

PAGE THIRTY-ONE

BRENDAN

They'll come after you.

TONY

50 thugs, 50 bullets. Nobody's more powerful than a bullet.

BRENDAN

You're always taking too many chances, Tony.

TONY

That's what Alex said the night he died. He said I was
either brave or suicidal, he hadn't decided which.
[They laugh mildly.]

BRENDAN

Well, we have some good news amidst all the tragedy. Geneva?

GENEVA

I'm finally pregnant.

TONY

Congrats!

GENEVA

We've tried for years. Not that I've minded the trying.

She nudges Brendan affectionately.


PAGE THIRTY-TWO

TONY

What are you going to name him or her?

GENEVA

We were thinking Alex or Alexa.

TONY

Alex, Alexa: I like that.

BRENDAN

So you were saying on the phone you wanted to look
at some charts?

TONY

Yeah, if that's okay.

BRENDAN

C'mon in.

INT. DEN OF BRENDAN'S APARTMENT -- LATE AFTERNOON

Brendan escorts Tony to his den, which is lined with bound volumes of music
trade magazines and books.

BRENDAN

My archive. Charts dating back to '53.




PAGE THIRTY-THREE

TONY

Do you have the Billboard and Big Hitz charts for the weeks
before and after Alex died?

BRENDAN

I think so. Have a seat.

Brendan takes two bound volumes from the shelves; one is labeled
"Billboard," the other "Big Hitz."

TONY

[flipping through the books] Just checking out a theory.

In Big Hitz, he comes to a cluster of advertisements. One ad reads: "'Cold
Sunshine' by The Pillagers -- National CHR promotion by Frank 'The Buzz'
Buzzardi."

Next ad reads: "DMV releases "Always," the new single: promotion by The
Buzz (Call 1-800-The Buzz)."
TONY

[flipping through the magazine] Just before Alex died, the
Buzz was pushing two songs: "Cold Sunshine"
and "Always." Took out big ads in Big Hitz.

BRENDAN

How'd they chart?

TONY

Let's see.


PAGE THIRTY-FOUR


Tony turns to the Big Hitz masthead: "Joe Montana, Chart Director; Alex
Darrow, Research Assistant." In the same issue, he turns to the charts:

"Big Hitz Hot 100 Singles Chart"
(week ending May 25, 1987)
Joe Montana, Chart Director//Alex Darrow, Research Assistant.

#1. Tom Blue "Cisco Meltdown"
#2. X-Lover "Leave Me Yesterday"
#3. Lindsey Alvarez "Tell a Stranger Named Me"
#4. Fixed Rig "The Love"

TONY

The week before Alex took over, the advertised songs
were top five. Just as I thought.

BRENDAN

How 'bout the week after?

They look at the following week's Big Hitz charts.

"Big Hitz Hot 100 Singles Chart"
(week ending June 2, 1987)
Alex Darrow, Temporary Chart Director.

Chart
position Artist Song

#1. DMV "Always
#2. The Pillagers "Cold Sunshine"
#3. X-Lover "Leave Me Yesterday"
#4. Tom Tim "Cisco Meltdown"


PAGE THIRTY-FIVE

TONY

They're not even in the Top Fifty, can you believe it?

He finds the two Buzz songs near the very bottom of the charts:

#94. The Pillagers "Cold Sunshine"
#95. Bloodpool "Love Overtime"
#96. DMV "Always"

TONY

Both songs are way down at 94 and 96 the week
the pay-offs stopped.

BRENDAN

A ninety point drop in a week! Unbelievable! Where
does Billboard put them?

Tony turns to the Billboard singles charts for the same weeks and finds that
both of Buzzardi's songs, "Cold Sunshine" and "Always," were at #92 and
#98, respectively, for both weeks.

TONY

Both Buzz songs are at 92 and 98 for both weeks
in Billboard. Exactly where Alex put them, too.

Tony and Brendan hover over the charts excitedly.

BRENDAN

Shit almighty, Tony. You've gotta go to someone
with this --


PAGE THIRTY-SIX

TONY

I know --

BRENDAN

'Cause this is like really --

TONY

I know. But the cops aren't listening to me.

BRENDAN

Figures. [lights a cigarette] Buzzardi has major clout with
the Sixth precinct. Two uncles and a cousin on the force.
One uncle wounded in the line of duty, retired with a gold
shield, though it was later taken away after an investigation.

TONY

No wonder Daley sees no evil.

BRENDAN

The Feds don't care, either, 'cause the money's too small to
make the radar. Buzzardi takes in thirty thou a year on
chart-fixing, which may not be the hundred-thou DiSipio pulls,
but it's not nothing. Particularly if it's everything he earns.

TONY

Why would anyone pay a promoter to buy numbers on
a chart everyone knows is corrupt?



PAGE THIRTY-SEVEN


BRENDAN

Because not everyone knows it's corrupt. Big Hitz freshens
up the front office with a name writer every few years
to give them credibility, which covers them to run a back office
sewer in chart fraud and coin op.

TONY

Tilden says Buzzardi had a key to the Big Hitz offices and
their computer passwords even after he left the magazine.

BRENDAN

He did. And enforced things with threats, violence. He's
openly violent and doesn't much care who sees it. He once
tried to rip out the eyeball of a rack-jobber backstage at a
Loverboy show in '83 in front of, like, seven people and a cop.

CUT TO (as the "Brendan voiceover" is heard):

INT. BACKSTAGE AT
LOVERBOY CONCERT
-- NIGHT

Buzzardi digs vigorously into
the eyesocket of someone
and a stream of blood squirts
from the victim's face onto
Buzzardi and all over the cold
cuts and fruit on the backstage
table as several people watch
in horror.

BRENDAN (voiceover):

Only thing that stopped him
was the blood spurting all
over his Brioni suit and
everything. True story.

PAGE THIRTY-EIGHT


CUT BACK TO:

INT. DEN OF BRENDAN'S APARTMENT -- DINNER HOUR

TONY

Why hasn't the press exposed him?

BRENDAN

Too smalltime. The NBC expose mostly caught the big fish.

Geneva walks in.
GENEVA

Bren, aren't we supposed to go to the Pointblank party?

BRENDAN

If you want to, honey. But I've gotta be up early for NARM.

TONY

[Looks at watch] Thanks for reminding me. I'm meeting
Susan at the party. Let's connect later, okay?

BRENDAN

Sure. And say hi to Susan.

GENEVA

Give her my love.

Tony leaves.

PAGE THIRTY-NINE


CUT TO:

EXT. CBGB ROCK CLUB -- EVENING

The sidewalk and street in front of CBGBs is packed with alternative rock
fans in ragged garb and bizzers in hip suits. Sign on the door reads: "Closed
for Private Party."

Tony opens the door, hearing a blast of loud recorded music, and walks in.

INT. CBGB ROCK CLUB -- EVENING

Tony walks by numerous partygoers and hears fragments of conversation.

PARTYGOER WITH SQUEAKY VOICE

Such a buzz around Pointblank -- and Minneapolis.

PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT

Not every Minneapolis band'll make it big. I bet Soul Asylum stays indie.

PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT

[to previous partygoer] My ears are still ringing from their '85 show.

PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT

[to previous partygoer] My ears are still ringing from Altamont.

PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT

[to previous partygoer] Huh?



PAGE FORTY


PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT

[to previous partygoer] I said, my ears are still ringing from Altamont.

PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT

[to previous partygoer] Can't hear ya.


Tony continues to walk toward the club's stage.


PARTYGOER WITH A GOATEE

R.E.M. will never have another hit as big as "Fall
on Me" -- they've peaked.

PARTYGOER IN A TURTLENECK WITH AFRO

Sifo Mabuse is giving a benefit against apartheid.

PARTYGOER WITH BLONDE HAIR

[to previous partygoer] Great cause, but it won't do any good.
Apartheid has about as much chance of falling as the Berlin
Wall or the twin towers.

PARTYGOER WITH A LISP

The drummer's not so smart. He was at 21 and a waiter asked
if anyone knew the Heimlich Maneuver. He goes, "Yeah"
and gives the Nazi salute. [demonstrates stiff arm salute]




PAGE FORTY-ONE

PARTYGOER WITH LONG BEARD

[to previous partygoer] You just don't understand
his creative tension.

PARTYGOER WITH A LISP

[to previous partygoer] There's a fine line between creative
tension and just being uptight.

Tony steps to the bar and orders a beer. JIM JOLSON, A&R vice president
for a major label, approaches with THREE MEMBERS OF A ROCK BAND
in their late teens.
JOLSON

Tony, you gotta meet these guys. This is Kurt, Krist and
Chad of Nirvana. I'm thinking of signin' 'em.

TONY

[to band] You guys done any records yet?

TEENAGED KURT COBAIN

[Shyly] We'll have one out next year on Sub Pop, an indie
out of Seattle. They released Green River and stuff.

THIRD PARTY TO CONVERSATION

[to band] Advice: move out of Seattle, if you wanna make it big.
Nobody but Heart ever came from Seattle.

JOLSON [to Tony]

Check this out.


PAGE FORTY-TWO


Jolson shows Tony a Pointblank promotional water pistol that publicists are
passing out at the club.

TONY

Another schlocky promo toy.

Susan Adler, wearing sunglasses that don't quite cover the fact that she's been
crying, walks quickly into the club and heads toward the cul de sac to the side
of the stage. Heads turn and people talk as she walks in.

JOLSON

Look who just walked in: Sue Adler.

TONY

Gotta go.

TONY

[waves to get her attention] Susan!

SUSAN

Hi Tony. How's your story going?

TONY

Lots of leads I'll tell you about later.

SUSAN

Wanna get together and trade notes?


PAGE FORTY-THREE


TONY

How about tomorrow?

SUSAN

Great.

Suddenly, a partygoer jokingly jumps in front of Susan with his water pistol
drawn. Susan reflexively kicks him in the groin.

SUSAN (to prankster)

You motherfucker! Comin' at me with a gun!

The prankster holds his crotch in pain as a small crowd begins to gather.

TONY

It's a toy, Susan, only a toy.

Susan walks briskly to the exit, with Tony a distance behind her.

EXT. CBGB -- NIGHT

Susan climbs into a cab on the Bowery. Tony knocks on the car window and
Susan lowers it.

SUSAN

Tony, I just don't want to talk now, okay? To anyone
now, okay? [Tony: "Okay."]

Tony watches as the cab drives away.


PAGE FORTY-FOUR


CUT TO:

EXT. WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK-- MORNING

Tony walks past a group of six jugglers passing balls to one another and a
guitar player performing near Washington Square Park before crossing to
Susan's apartment house.

INT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT -- MORNING

Susan's apartment is decorated with a hip old money sense of good taste. The
large living room window has a third floor view of the arch in Washington
Square Park. An original Warhol portrait hangs on the wall.

TONY

Hi Susan.

SUSAN

Come in.

TONY

[pointing to the Warhol] Is that an original Warhol?

SUSAN

Yeah. Warhol painted my great-grandfather John Adler,
the congressman.

TONY

Your great-grandfather was a congressman?


PAGE FORTY-FIVE

SUSAN

Represented downtown Manhattan for one term. He
once told me, "A congressman is less powerful
than a file clerk, if you're not the party in power."

TONY

Probably true. [pause] By the way, sorry about
that guy last night --

SUSAN

Forget last night.

TONY

So you doing alright?

SUSAN

I miss Alex and my life the way it was. Otherwise, I'm fine.

TONY

Same here.

SUSAN

I've even thought about seeing a shrink but don't think
so. Shrinks always seem less perceptive than me.

TONY

Yeah.


PAGE FORTY-SIX
SUSAN

Didja see the new Billboard? Some guy calls the murder
"music-related"?

TONY

You're kidding?

SUSAN

No, it quotes someone saying, [she reads from the article]
"'We will not hide from music-business related terror,'
said a senior executive who spoke on condition of anonymity."

TONY

My sources say it was hit, too. But who ordered it? Did
Alex mention any threats?

SUSAN

Come to think of it, there were quasi-threatening
messages on his answering machine.

TONY

Like what?

SUSAN

Like, oh, things you can't really put your finger on.
Like: [she imitates a hard sell voice] "Are you blind or
going blind? If so, enroll in blah blah Braille School" left
three or four times a day. Followed by two-second messages
of random stuff like: "Wheelchairs are a big expense."


PAGE FORTY-SEVEN

TONY

Anyone threaten him explicitly?

SUSAN

Not really. But the messages started after Alex sent
back a $700 bribe from a promoter who calls
himself the Buzz.

TONY

Everyone mentions him. I'm even interviewing him tomorrow.

SUSAN

The Buzz agreed to talk?!

TONY

Actually, he's probably checking me out to see what I know.

SUSAN

[excited] Let's connect after. Come by after dinner.
[Tony: "Sure.']

CUT TO:

EXT. THE BUZZ'S OFFICE -- AFTERNOON

Tony walks into a dilapidated building that houses the Buzz's office on West
14th Street off 10th Ave. in the meat-packing district. There's a butcher shop
in the first floor storefront and a police car parked out front.



PAGE FORTY-EIGHT


INT. THE BUZZ'S OFFICE -- AFTERNOON

Tony enters the Buzz's dark cluttered office, which looks as if time stopped in
1959. On the walls are posters and pictures of music events of the Fifties,
mostly local ones: "Flatbush Rockabilly Fest '56"; "The Roasters Play
Coney Island"; "Free Alan Freed." The room doesn't have a reception desk
or a computer and the clock on the wall is stopped at noon.

Seated behind a desk is Frank Buzzardi, a rough-looking, tough-talking guy
around 60 with tinted glasses, a full head of gray hair and acne scarring on his
face.

His assistant, Sammy Stompeto, is a thin, thirty-year-old, dark-haired guy
wearing all black and a gold chain around his neck. He looks a bit like a
bartender at a strip bar and walks with a slight limp.

THE BUZZ

Come in.

TONY

[taking a seat] Thanks for the interview.

THE BUZZ

Better interview me now, 'cause I'm an endangered species.
You don't find 'em like me in the biz any more. [Yells to
Sammy: "Sammy! My pills!"] Then to Tony: "Hypertension."

TONY

[Noticing tuning fork pens on his desk] Interesting pens.



PAGE FORTY-NINE


THE BUZZ

Ya want one? Promo thing for radio. See, I got character.
Back in the Fifties, we was all characters. I was there at the
birth of rock 'n' roll, staring down at the cradle, I sure was,
when the babe was rattling 'n' rockin' for the first time. Today,
the biz is all lawyers, accountants -- they don't know
nothin' 'bout music. [Shouts: "Sammy!"]


Sammy, walking with slight limp, rushes in with the pills and a deferential,
"Here, boss."

THE BUZZ

Hey, Sammy, you gonna do that brake adjustment this weekend?

SAMMY

If you want.

Sammy walks from the room.

THE BUZZ

Crack mechanic, Sammy is. The best in car repair before
he came to work for me.

TONY

So how long have you been in the music business?


PAGE FIFTY

THE BUZZ

I started as a producer in the Bronx in '55, recording
The Klezmers. The neighborhood was so rough back then
you can hear gunshots from the street on our first record,
if you listen close. We left the shots in. We useta joke that
song was number five with a bullet -- literally!
[laughs roughly] Later, I got into promotion, sold the studio,
and worked with the Chevettes, J.B. Preston -- that was
before he was with The Troubles -- and the Fontana Five.

TONY

I'm sure you've heard the accusation: some say you
might've manipulated the charts over the years.

THE BUZZ

Look, it's my cocksuckin' job to manipulate them charts, okay?!
[He pops a pill without water.] Every promoter everywhere
manipulates them charts, that's why they pay us. I get paid
to make my records number one, okay? Promoters get paid
to promote, okay? My job is to do whatever I gotta do to
get PDs, GMs, DJs, chart guys off the dime. [Shouts:
"Sammy! Water!" We hear "Yes, boss," offscreen.]

TONY

I read in a newspaper where you were charged with payola in 1963 --

THE BUZZ

And proud of it. 'Cause payola should be legal, and
them DJs should pay to play my records, I always say.
Radio aint even good enough to play most my stuff!


PAGE FIFTY-ONE

TONY

There's also talk the murder of Alex Darrow was
somehow linked to chart rackets.

THE BUZZ

I don't know nothing about no murder or no chart racket
whatsoever. [Sammy brings him water, and the Buzz drinks it.]

TONY

Some have gone so far as to link the Darrow thing to you
in some way.

THE BUZZ

Some people'll say anything about anybody. Don't make
it true, do it? I'll let ya in on a secret, kid: no accuser is
ever gonna stop Frank Buzzardi from conducting business.
No way, no how, nowhere. I've survived since the Fifties,
and not everyone did. I survived 'cause me and Morris and
Hy and all them guys had a rule: you never let a man
mess with your business. Me, I've always carried my
own personal bodyguard. [He reaches to the small of his
back and casually tosses a revolver on the desk.] He's named
Smith & Wesson. Go ahead, touch it. It's a $25,000
custom-made .44. Bought with royalties from
"Sweet Talk 'n' Jive."

TONY

[handling the gun] You ever shot someone with it?



PAGE FIFTY-TWO

THE BUZZ

I might. If some cocksucker comes up to me and wants
my fuckin' wallet, you think I'm not going to blow his freakin'
brains out? If some cocksucker tries to take away my business,
I assure you he'll come down with some incurable
gun-related disease, he sure will. [He takes the pistol back.]

THE BUZZ

Watch this.

Buzzardi gets a single bullet from a desk drawer, puts it into the revolver.

The phone rings.

SAMMY

[With phone in his hand] It's Daley at the Sixth.

THE BUZZ

I'll call him in five. [Turns to Tony.] Look, I'd like to talk
more, but I gotta go.

TONY

Thanks for your time. By the way, you said Daley was on
the phone. Was that Detective Daley of the Sixth Precinct?

THE BUZZ

Yeah, Daley. I known him for years. We shoot at the
range together. [picks up the phone and starts dialing.]

TONY

Thanks again.

Sammy escorts Tony to the door, and we see a tight shot of Sammy. We see
scarring on the right side of Sammy's head of the sort that might have been
caused by a bullet grazing.


PAGE FIFTY-FOUR


CUT TO:

EXT. BUZZ'S OFFICE BUILDING -- AFTERNOON

Tony walks from the building, where a police car is parked and two cops are
eyeing him suspiciously.

CUT TO:

INT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- NIGHT

TONY

[Popping the cork from a Champagne bottle.] And so he pulls
out a pistol. [imitating Buzzardi's gruff speech] "It's a
$25,000 custom-made .44. Bought with royalties from
"Sweet Talk 'n' Jive." [They both laugh.]


PAGE FIFTY-FIVE

SUSAN

Whatta thug. Sounds like some guy straight out of that book "Hit Men."

TONY

I was thinkin' that, too.

Tony pours Champagne for both of them, and they toast.

TONY

Here's to finding the guy who killed Alex.

SUSAN

You bet.

They clink glasses and sip Champagne.

TONY

Forgot to mention it, but I found this at the crime
scene that night.

He pulls out a business card for The Steak Joint, an uptown Manhattan
eatery.

TONY

Found it right next to Alex's body that night.

SUSAN

[looking at it curiously] Hmm.


PAGE FIFTY-SIX

TONY

But I checked out the place and it doesn't seem to link up
to anything.

They walk out to the balcony, with flowers in pots and a view of Washington
Square Park.

TONY

How'd you get such a great apartment?

SUSAN

It's been handed down in the family for three generations.

TONY

It's like a movie set.

SUSAN

So you think Buzzardi was capable of killing --

TONY

Capable of anything. I mean, re-open the file on Amelia
Earhart; he probably has her in a trunk.

They casually stroll back from the balcony to the apartment. Susan puts on
some music -- Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me" plays -- and they both sink
into a deep pillowed couch, both slightly tipsy.

SUSAN

So you still having nightmares about that night?

PAGE FIFTY-SEVEN
TONY

Not anymore. And to tell the truth, there're some days
when I wake up invigorated because I know I wasn't
supposed to live to see this day. There's nothing like missing
a bullet to make you feel so totally alive.

SUSAN

Know what you mean. Fuck survivor's guilt.

We hear a Dylan lyric from the stereo: "Meanwhile life outside goes on all
around you."

TONY

Can you believe the cop called it a possible black-on-black crime?
I never really thought of Alex as black, even though he was.

SUSAN

Same here. When I had a tan, my arms were actually
darker than Alex's.

TONY

Even my taste in music was blacker than his; I liked Melle
Mel, he liked Zep. [pause] Did you know we were gonna
room together in '80 but I didn't want to commit to a
two-year lease?

SUSAN

That was you back then: afraid of commitment. You couldn't
even decide whether you wanted to stay in New York or
move back to Burbank.


PAGE FIFTY-EIGHT

TONY

Lack of money can sometimes make you seem
like you can't commit.

Tony spots some unusual looking binoculars on her coffee table.

TONY

What're these? [He looks through them.] They make
everything upside down!

SUSAN

They're upside-down binoculars. They're a promo thing
from that band The Upside Downs.

TONY

Wow! Everything's upside down -- and close.

SUSAN

Is your world upside down?

TONY

[affectionately] Oh, ha ha.

He moves closer to her on the couch and puts down the binoculars.

TONY

This next thing is completely off-the-record, okay? Not
for attribution and on background.


PAGE FIFTY-NINE

SUSAN

Sure. What is it?

He moves over to her as if he's about to whisper something in her ear, pushes
her hair aside and kisses her on the ear and then on the face. They embrace
briefly, but then Susan stands up.

SUSAN

Tony, I like you a lot. But I have my own secret, which
is also completely off the record, okay?

TONY

Okay.

SUSAN

I'm gay. Always have been.

TONY

[shocked] You're kidding?! But what about you and Alex?

SUSAN

Our relationship wasn't that way. Why do
you think we had separate apartments?

TONY

Never would've guessed in a million years.

The phone rings and she picks it up.


PAGE SIXTY


SUSAN (on phone)

Hi, Geneva. [pause] Of course, we're still on. I
wouldn't miss our Tuesday nights for anything. [pause]
Eight's fine. [pause] Okay. [pause] Love you, too.
Bye. [She hangs up the phone.]

SUSAN

[Slightly blushing.] That was Geneva.

TONY

Look, I've gotta run. You wanna go to that thing tomorrow
at the Apollo, the Orphanheart show?

SUSAN

Sounds like fun. I love Sunday afternoon concerts.
Three would be fine.

Tony leaves her apartment.

CUT TO:

EXT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON

Susan bounds from her apartment smiling and wearing a multi-colored
flowered dress that's loose and airy, suggesting the quality of a cloud or
balloon. She acts like someone glowing from having had sex the night
before. Tony is in his car at the curb, and Susan gets in.





PAGE SIXTY-ONE


INT. TONY'S CAR -- AFTERNOON


Tony begins driving from the Village to Harlem, taking the FDR Drive
uptown. Windows are open, it's a sunny day and the radio plays John
Mellencamp's good-timey "Rumble Seat."

SUSAN

Haven't been to the Apollo since Sly Stone didn't
show there in the Seventies.

TONY

Alex would've loved this gig.

SUSAN

He always liked going to concerts with you.

Tony is driving in the right lane on the FDR Drive when a station wagon (with someone in the back) pulls in front of him at a slow speed.

TONY

Crazy driver!

The station wagon slows even more, causing Tony to tailgate. We see the road ahead
from Tony and Susan's POV through the windshield, while someone in the
back of the station wagon opens the rear and throws a large plastic
bag of thick red paint at them while shouting, "Next time it'll be blood,
asshole!"




PAGE SIXTY-TWO

From the POV of looking out the windshield, suddenly the entire windshield turns bright red. Tony, not able to see through the front window, swerves to the side of the road while turning on the wipers, which just smear the paint into varying shapes and shades of red and pink. (We see this from inside the car, of course, and the smearing red paint is all we see on screen for a time.) Tony sticks his head out the side window to guide the car to the shoulder.

TONY

Can't see a damned thing!

SUSAN

What the hell was that?

TONY

Think it's red paint.

SUSAN

Did you hear what he shouted?

TONY

Yeah: "Next time it'll be blood."

They arrive at the curb, get out, and clean off most of the paint from the
windows and hood with rags.

TONY

Motherfucker could've fuckin' killed us!

After getting most of the paint off the windows, Tony throws down the rags
and looks at the mess all over his and Susan's clothes.

TONY

Looks like my Fiat's bleeding.


PAGE SIXTY-THREE
SUSAN

Shit. The dress is ruined!

TONY

We can't go to the show like this. What d'ya wanna do?

SUSAN

Should we file a police report?

TONY

Won't do any good. I'll talk to Daley about it later.

SUSAN

You think Geneva and Brendan might be home?

TONY

Let's head over.
CUT TO:

INT. BRENDAN SKYE'S APARTMENT -- EVENING

They ring the bell to Brendan's apartment and Brendan answers the door.

BRENDAN

My god! What happened to you two?

GENEVA

I hope that's just paint. Come in.


PAGE SIXTY-FOUR

TONY

It's just paint. Its mostly dry, though you might wanna
put some newspapers down on the carpet so we don't
track anything in.

Brendan spreads some newspapers on the floor and chairs. Tony and Susan
walk in.

BRENDAN

Can I get you anything?

TONY

Water would be fine.

SUSAN

Same here.

BRENDAN

So what happened?

TONY

Someone threw a plastic bag of red paint at us
on the FDR Drive.

SUSAN

Shouting something like, "Next time it'll be blood."

Geneva brings in water for everyone.


PAGE SIXTY-FIVE

BRENDAN

Sounds like vintage Buzzardi.

TONY

Tell me about it. But the cops won't listen to me. Cops
act like I'm a suspect.

BRENDAN

Glad you brought that up, 'cause that's the rumor
I'm hearing, too.

TONY

[enraged] How fuckin' dare they? I'm risking my neck
to solve this and that's what I get?

BRENDAN

Calm down. It's just they see you with Susan.

TONY

So what? We're just friends.

BRENDAN

They don't know that.

TONY

What? They think my life is some sort of noir movie? I'm here
for their tabloid entertainment? Meanwhile I'm going broke.


PAGE SIXTY-SIX

BRENDAN

No good deed goes unpunished, to coin a phrase.
[Looks at watch.] I've got to pick up my car and
head to Bear Mountain; I'm checking out The Confidentials
in a couple hours.

TONY

Need a lift to the auto shop?

BRENDAN

I'd appreciate it.

SUSAN

I'll stay here with Geneva. [To Tony] Drop by my
place later tonight, okay?

TONY

Okay. After the Top of the Sixes. [To Brendan] Ready when you are.

CUT TO:

INT. TONY'S CAR -- LATE EVENING

Tony drives Brendan uptown via Broadway.

BRENDAN

It's Piney's Auto Repair on Morningside Heights.




PAGE SIXTY-SEVEN

TONY

I saw Stan Tilden the other day. He says hi.

BRENDAN

Sweet guy. He still feels guilty about dropping me from
his label. But I don't blame him. I mean, my record
just didn't sell.

TONY

Says if you ever need money, call his brother Paul.

BRENDAN

[Smiles] Wall Street Paul, huh? I might take him up on that.
[pause] You think Geneva is having an affair?

TONY

Why do you ask that?

BRENDAN

I dunno. She's spending a lot of time away, supposedly
with Susan.

Tony's paint-splattered car begins making wheezing noises as it climbs hilly
Morningside Drive in Manhattan.

TONY

Hear that? Bet the paint screwed something up.
Lemme pull over.


PAGE SIXTY-EIGHT


He pulls over on Morningside Dr. where there's a hillside view of the city.
Tony jumps out, opens the hood, looks inside and comes back in the car.

TONY

Let the engine cool a minute.

They sit in the car on the hill for a couple minutes and talk.

BRENDAN

So what else did Stan say?

TONY

[pause] He thinks the Buzz killed Alex.

BRENDAN

But he won't go on the record, right?

TONY

Right. There's so much evidence that cuts both ways.
Like, Buzzardi's assistant has a limp like the gunman, but
that might just be coincidence.

BRENDAN

I just don't see a happy ending to this.

TONY

Why ya say that?


PAGE SIXTY-NINE

BRENDAN

[distant look] I just have a bad feeling. [pause] Y'know,
sometimes I wish I'd stayed a folksinger instead of getting
into the biz. I mighta had a hit by now, if I'd stuck with it.

The car fills with an increasingly bright light from an undetermined source.

TONY

There's still time.

BRENDAN

It's too late. It's too late.

TONY

[Looks at watch.] We'd better roll.

He drives to Piney's Auto Repair Shop and drops off Brendan.

BRENDAN

Thanks for the ride.

TONY

Don't mention it.

BRENDAN

[smiles] Have fun at the party. And wear something a little less red!




PAGE SEVENTY


They both laugh mildly, and Tony drives off. A block away, Tony passes by
The Steak Joint restaurant, the same place on the business card he found at
the murder scene.

TONY

[mumbles to himself] Didn't know it was so close.

CUT TO:

EXT. 666 FIFTH AVENUE BUILDING -- NIGHT

Shot of the building and the "666" sign at the top.

INT. ANTEROOM OUTSIDE BALLROOM AT 666 FIFTH -- NIGHT

An attendant stands at a podium behind a red velvet rope holding the guest
list to the party.

ATTENDANT

[With Brooklyn accent] Your name, please?

TONY

Tony Armonica, freelance writer.

ATTENDANT

Harmonica?

TONY

No, Armonica. I'm on the Stigma Records list.


PAGE SEVENTY-ONE

ATTENDANT

Sorry, not here.

TONY

What do you mean? Vaccina Bayard put me on personally.

ATTENDANT

First name is Henry?

TONY

No, Tony. T-o-n-y. [Looks over at the guest list himself.]
See! There it is.

ATTENDANT

You don't have to be nasty about it.

A security guard approaches.

GUARD

[To attendant] Is there a problem?

ATTENDANT

[To guard] No, I straightened him out. [To Tony] You can go in now.


Tony walks into the ballroom at 666 Fifth.




PAGE SEVENTY-TWO


INT. BALLROOM AT 666 FIFTH AVE. -- NIGHT

Tony walks into the party as a tape of Husker Du's "Never Talking to You"
plays and goes to a table full of cold cuts. Standing next to him is Jack
Worstman, a bearded writer for Big Hitz. Tony picks up a plastic fork.

JACK WORSTMAN

[Hold up his hands in mock fright.] Don't kill me! Don't kill me!

TONY

So, Jack Worstman. What are you doing here? It's a cash bar.

JACK WORSTMAN

Very funny. I hear you're gonna stab Big Hitz in the
back with your article. Some gratitude. They hired you
when you were a nobody.

TONY

I'm simply investigating Alex's murder. And how come I'm
the only one from the magazine who's coming forward
about this thing? Which side are you on?

JACK WORSTMAN

Not on the side of the rats, I'll tell you that.
[He shoves baloney in his mouth.]

TONY

No, you're busy with the snakes.


PAGE SEVENTY-THREE

JACK WORSTMAN

C'mon, the Darrow thing was random. Anyone walking
down that street at that time of night woulda been shot.
It was a spur-of-the-moment crime.

TONY

A guy wearing a ski mask is spur-of-the-moment?
And chasing him down and not stealing anything?
It was a hit, Worstman. [He points at Worstman
with a plastic fork.] And you know it. And you're not
doing anything about it.
CUT TO:

EXT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT BUILDING -- LATER THAT NIGHT

Tony walks across the street to Susan's apartment, and a police car at a red
light lurches forward as he walks in front of it.

INT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT -- NIGHT

TONY

Worst party I've been to in a long time. Talked to Jack Worstman.

SUSAN

What'd he have to say?

TONY

Still loyal to Big Hitz and Buzzardi, if you can believe it.




PAGE SEVENTY-FOUR

SUSAN

Gonna write up the party for Music News?

TONY

No. Assignment's canceled. My freelancing's going
down the tubes because of this thing.

SUSAN

Y'know, if it's causing you this much grief, maybe
you oughta consider dropping the story.

TONY

No way. I'm committed to the end.

SUSAN

But look what it's doing to you. You could lose
everything because of a cause.

TONY

If I don't solve it, who will?

SUSAN

Now you're sounding like me.

TONY

And you're sounding like me.



PAGE SEVENTY-FIVE


Susan switches on the 11pm local news and fixes some coffee. Tony watches
the news inattentively.

On the television screen there's live footage of a mountain cliff illuminated by
police lights, and highway patrolmen looking down at a car that fell into a
deep ravine.

NEWS ANCHOR (on television)

The car fell 100 feet down the cliff, killing the lone occupant
whose identity is being determined at this hour.

WITNESS (on television)

[upset] He took the turn sharp and look terrified,
like he was trying to pump the brake but it wouldn't
stop. And he went right over the cliff.

ANCHOR (on television)

The incident happened around two hours ago on
the main highway leading to Bear Mountain.

TONY

Wonder if Brendan saw this accident up on Bear Mountain.

Susan is still making coffee.

SUSAN

Huh?




PAGE SEVENTY-SIX

TONY

Some guy drove his car off a cliff right around where
Brendan was tonight. Bet he saw the whole thing.

Susan comes out to watch.

SUSAN

How awful.

On the television, we see live footage of the mountainside where the car fell
and a zoom view of the smashed car at the bottom of the valley.

SUSAN

Oh my god, Tony! That's Brendan's Karmann Ghia!

TONY

It is! [He puts his hands over his face and cries.]

Susan hurls her coffee mug at the TV, smashing the screen.

CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: A month later.

INT. BRENDAN AND GENEVA'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON

Nearly everything in Brendan and Geneva's apartment is packed in boxes and
stacked up, because Geneva is moving out. All the plants are in a corner next
to the "Brendan Skye Live at Folk City" poster. Geneva is visibly pregnant
now.



PAGE SEVENTY-SEVEN

GENEVA

Glad you could help with the move.

TONY

Wish I could do more.

GENEVA

I think it's the best thing for me to move in with Susan.
Can't afford this place without Brendan anymore.
And little Alex'll arrive in a few months.

TONY

I'm moving, too. Next month.

GENEVA

Really? Where to?

TONY

Don't know yet. I'm three months behind on the rent and
not earning any money. I guess I'll try temporary
housing for awhile.

In the sky outside the window is a single large cumulus cloud.

TONY

Have you talked to the police about Brendan?




PAGE SEVENTY-EIGHT

GENEVA

Just an accident, they say. And it might've been.

TONY

But the timing stinks.

GENEVA

So what's going to happen to you after next month?

TONY

I really don't know. I'm under a cloud till the case is solved.

GENEVA

Keep in touch, will you?

TONY

I will.

What follows is a series of fast forward glimpses of Tony's life through the
Nineties and the 2000s.


CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 1994

INT. DENTIST OFFICE -- DAY

Tony reclines in a dentist's chair and the DENTIST is looking into his mouth.


PAGE SEVENTY-NINE


DENTIST

[shocked] Lord! When was the last time you saw a dentist?

TONY

Several years ago. I've been sort of broke for awhile.

DENTIST

The roots in a few teeth are almost gone. I can recommend
an endodontist.

Tony's cell phone rings while he's in the chair.

TONY

Mind if I take this call?

DENTIST

Be my guest.

TONY (on phone)

Yeah. [pause] I'm trying to get the money to go. I
haven't seen my relatives for years. [pause] Yeah, I'm
losing touch with my roots. [pause] Look, I'm at the
dentist right now. I'll call later. [pause] Okay, bye.


CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 1997


PAGE EIGHTY


INT. BUS DRIVING INTO MEXICO -- AFTERNOON

As Los Lobos's "Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir" plays, a bedraggled Tony, now
sporting a beard, rides a ramshackle bus into Tijuana, Mexico, past signs that
say, "Last U.S. Stop" and "Entering Mexico."

EXT. AVENIDA REVOLUCION IN TIJUANA, MEXICO - AFTERNOON

Tony walks with his suitcase and a shoulder bag down Tijuana's main drag
and into a hotel. The sidewalk is crowded with hawkers, barkers and whores.

INT. TIJUANA HOTEL -- AFTERNOON

Tony approaches the desk clerk, who is behind protective hard plastic and
bars. The place looks more like a pawn shop than a hotel.

TONY

Do you speak English? I need a room for a few nights.

DESK CLERK

[in broken English] So why you here?

TONY

Why am I here? I hear it's cheaper than California.

DESK CLERK

I maybe have room. I check for you.

To his left in the lobby, TWO MEXICANS are talking secretively; one
points at Tony and whispers, "Asesino."


PAGE EIGHTY-ONE

CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 1998

INT. CORPORATE OFFICE IN LOS ANGELES -- DAY

Tony is seated at a desk in an office and his BOSS walks by.

BOSS

You're only temping for one day, so I want these letters
alphabetized and filed by five.

CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 1999

INT. TONY'S LOS ANGELES APARTMENT -- NIGHT

Tony is in his seedy Los Angeles apartment as his LANDLORD tries hacking
through the door with a hammer while shouting death threats.

LANDLORD
(we hear him from the other side of the door)

[While banging on the door with a hammer] You had your
chance to pay rent! Now I'm gonna fuckin' kill you!

Tony calls the cops on his cell phone and we hear a 911 operator from Tony's
end of the phone: "This is 911. What's your emergency?

TONY (on phone)

My landlord is breaking in and threatening to kill me.
Hurry, if you want to save a life.


PAGE EIGHTY-TWO


CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 2002

INT. LOS ANGELES BRANCH LIBRARY -- AFTERNOON

Tony is at a public branch library in L.A. surfing the Internet. He checks out
several websites before browsing the Hollywood Reporter site. He sees a
headline:

"Arrest Made In 1987 Slaying of Music Charts Worker"

Tony is in shock and stands up at his computer terminal. A LIBRARIAN
approaches from behind him.

LIBRARIAN

Sir, you've used your fifteen minutes computer time. You'll
have to wrap up.

TONY

[Waves her away] Hold on, hold on.

He reads the story:

"Music promoter Frank 'The Buzz' Buzzardi was arrested today and charged
with first degree murder in the 1987 slaying of Alex Darrow, former music
charts manager for the Big Hitz trade magazine. The case, which had stymied
investigators for years, finally came to a close this morning when Buzzardi,
now a 62-year-old casino pit boss, was captured by Las Vegas police on a
warrant from New York. Investigators theorize Darrow was murdered
because he refused to sell chart numbers for bribes."



PAGE EIGHTY-THREE


CUT TO:

EXT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON

Tony knocks on Susan's apartment door. She opens it and looks at him with
shock and tears in her eyes, hugging him with a rush of enthusiasm.

SUSAN

You're back! Come in. [Tony: "Thanks."]

Susan hugs him again.

SUSAN

We thought we'd lost you. Last
I heard, you were in Mexico or something.

TONY

That was years ago. I'm okay now but there
were some rough times.

He looks around the apartment and sees a combination of Susan's things and
Geneva's. The Warhol portrait is still on the wall, Geneva's "Brendan Skye
Live at Folk City" poster is on another wall, and Geneva's plants are
everywhere.

In a corner are a collection of CDs and LPs, including, "The Tom Jones Fever
Zone."

SUSAN

Geneva's still here. And Alex, her son.


PAGE EIGHTY-FOUR


TONY

Alex must be --

SUSAN

He'll be sixteen next month. Can you believe it?

TONY

The view's the same. [He looks out over the balcony
over Washington Square Park.] There's the arch.

SUSAN

Yeah but the twin towers are gone. We used to
see them from the den.

TONY

Ever see the old crowd? Like Stan Tilden?

SUSAN

Not since 9/11. His brother Paul died in the south tower
collapse, and Stan hasn't been the same since. He doesn't
return my calls anymore.

TONY

Sorry to hear that.





PAGE EIGHTY-FIVE


Geneva walks in from the bedroom wearing an Indigo Girls t-shirt, her short
hair now grey.
GENEVA

Tony! I can't believe it!

They hug.

GENEVA

You look great.

TONY

You, too.

A teenage kid who looks strikingly like a very young Brendan Skye comes
from the den.

TEENAGER

Hi mom. I'm heading out to the show.

GENEVA

Alex, first say hello to Tony. He's an old family friend.

ALEX

Hi Tony.






PAGE EIGHTY-SIX


TONY

Hi Alex.

GENEVA

He'll be sixteen next month. And he's playing
guitar and sings just like Brendan.

TONY

[to Alex] So what concert you going to?

ALEX

R.E.M. I'm reviewing it for my school paper.

TONY

[to Geneva] The more things change, huh?

GENEVA

You'd better get going, Alex.

ALEX

Nice meeting you, Tony. [Tony: "Same here."]


Alex walks out the door.





PAGE EIGHTY-SEVEN

We hear R.E.M.'s instrumental "Last Date" in the background.

TONY

I have some good news: I'm moving back to New York.
That new magazine Music Dateline hired me as a writer.

SUSAN

Great. You're welcome to stay here until
you find a place.

TONY

Thanks.

SUSAN

Did you hear the case got solved?

TONY

Oh, yeah. Buzzardi's in a cage. We were
proved right.

SUSAN

You had it solved fifteen years ago. If only
the cops had listened to you then.

TONY

Some people have a lot of explaining to do.




PAGE EIGHTY-EIGHT


SUSAN

Can you believe it's finally over?

TONY

Wish I could tell Brendan the good news.


Screen goes black and we hear the song "Heroes" by David Bowie.


TITLE CARD (before the credits roll):

The music business changed its method of compiling charts in 1990, a year
after the murder on which some of this film is based. The industry now uses
the SoundScan system, which provides a more objective measure of record
units sold.

The murder case on which parts of this film is based was finally solved after
13 years of detective work in 2002, with the arrest of Nashville promoter
Richard D'Antonio (aka, The Tone).


THE END


---------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------


io, an arts and entertainment writer/reporter whose humor and satire has appeared in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, Spy magazine, Details magazine and other publications.

By the way, my non-satiric journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Toronto Star, Newsday, The Village Voice, Spy magazine, Details magazine, New Times, the online edition of Playboy magazine, Cash Box magazine and other publications. (This list does not include the many international publications that have published my reporting for Reuters or the papers that have syndicated my stories over the years.)

Here are samples of my published satire and humor, as well as a few web exclusives and my resume.

I can be reached at pliorio@aol.com and 510-204-9417 (cell: 510-229-0407) in Berkeley, Calif.




BIO/DISCOGRAPHY


I'm a singer-songwriter based in Berkeley, Calif., who has been self-releasing
my own songs regularly since 2004 (though I've been writing songs without releasing them
for four decades).

To date, at least 50 of my original songs have been aired on such leading
alternative radio stations as KALX, WFMU and KCRW -- on stations from
California to Germany.

Contact: pliorio@aol.com

---------------------------------------------------------------------

DISCOGRAPHY

CD and MP3 releases

"Zip Code of the Moon" e.p. -- 2011
"7 Words"ep. -- 2010
"Taboo" e.p. -- 2010

"130 Songs (Parts 1 to 6)" -- a six-disc collection of my songs -- 2010

["130 Songs" puts together in one place several of my earlier albums,
including the "Banned Music" e.p. (2009); the "Sitting Around" e.p. (2009);
the "75 Songs" three-disc set; the 2004 cassette tape edition of the
now-shelved "About Myself" album (which was followed by the same album
released on CD as "About Myself" in 2005); the "Make a Noise/Lime Green
Celery" album of 2007; and various four-song singles released in '08/'09.)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

cassette tape releases

"About Myself" -- two cassette tapes (2004; followed by the same album
released on CD as "About Myself" in 2005). now shelved

"Ten Song Demo" -- 1998

All songs on all albums composed, performed and produced by Paul Iorio
(except "You Won't Be Burying Me Now," which puts my lyrics to a trad folk
melody; and "Must Call Love," which uses ten words from a Grace Paley short story).











Paul Iorio is an arts and entertainment writer/reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Toronto Star, Details magazine and other publications. He has also contributed photography to The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and others, and is based on Berkeley, California.

Here are samples of his published writings and his resume.

He can be reached at pliorio@aol.com, St. in Berkeley 94705.

__________________________________________________________________

SAMPLES OF PAUL IORIO'S PUBLISHED WRITINGS


* * *

TABLE OF CONTENTS


1. Los Angeles Times: Three-part feature on Roman Polanski's movie "Chinatown," featuring rare exclusive interview with Polanski.

2. Los Angeles New Times: Cover feature on comedian Richard Pryor that includes my own eyewitness account of Pryor's last full-length concert ever.

3. Toronto Star: The only story anywhere to have covered, comparatively, the immediate coverage by the major television networks of the 9/11 plane crashes.

4. Washington Post: A popular feature about what would happen in real life if characters in feature films were actually injured the way they are onscreen.

5. San Francisco Chronicle: A one-on-one interview with poet Lawrence Ferlighetti, who reveals new details about Beat-era writers.

6. Washington Post: A tour of notable San Francisco locations in the history of Beat poetry (particularly Allen Ginsberg's "Howl").

7. New York Times: A satiric piece on How Not to Blow Your Oscar Speech.

8. San Francisco Chronicle: Five separate mini-profiles of celebrities Dick Cavett, Edward Norton, Anne Heche, Daphne Rubin Vega and Carroll O'Connor.

Some of the articles are presented here in original manuscript or updated versions.(Resume follows at the end.)

Here are the stories!
_______________________________________________________

A SAMPLING OF PUBLISHED STORIES BY PAUL IORIO
* * *

[PUBLISHED IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES]

Roman Polanski on "Chinatown"
(Polanski, Towne and Evans Reveal Backstage Secrets)

By Paul Iorio

Several months ago, director Roman Polanski watched "Chinatown"

on laser disc with his wife at their home in Paris. It had been a long time

since Polanski had seen the landmark film, which he directed and didn't like

very much at the time of its 1974 release. At first, they planned to watch only

a half-hour of it but were soon hooked and saw it through to the gruesome

finale.

Polanski's reaction to the film, 25-years after its release, is

inexplicably modest. "I like it more now than I did then," Polanski

said in a rare, exclusive interview by phone from a ski resort in the Dolomite

mountains in Italy.

Of course, many critics and fans have been far less restrained over

the decades, hailing "Chinatown" as a near-perfect gem, one of the great

movies of the last thirty years, a film that seems to improve with time and

repeated viewing. It's also arguably the highest peak of Polanski's own

career, which includes such formidable peaks as "The Pianist" (2002),



PAGE TWO

"Rosemary's Baby" ('68), "Repulsion" ('65), "Tess" ('79), and "Frantic" ('88).

The film's plot centers on private eye Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), who is

hired to investigate a supposed case of marital infidelity. Gittes soon

stumbles on a government (and family) scandal in which the former head of

the Los Angeles Water Department and others are found to be diverting

water, stealing land, and committing murder, while nefariously re-shaping the

city's boundaries.

Besides Nicholson, the film also stars Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Cross

Mulwray, the wife of a slain Water Department chief; and John Huston as

venal tycoon Noah Cross, Evelyn's father.

What does Polanski admire about the film today? "When

[Nicholson] comes up to the door [of Evelyn's house] and knocks

on the door [and it slams in his face]...And nothing happens. And we hold

like this for a long time," says the director. "I [also] liked the

scene when [Evelyn] walks out of the Brown Derby, when [Nicholson] says,

'I like my nose, I like breathing through it.' Remember? I like that shot when

it starts with the page going to fetch the car and doing it in two




PAGE THREE

profiles...[Today], maybe I would cut two close-ups. I don't know whether I

would actually. Maybe I wouldn't."

He is momentarily distracted by his baby son Elvis, who is

crying loudly. "They brought my son here. You want to talk to him? He's

[fourteen] months [old]," says Polanski.

What would he now change about the film? "Little details here and

there," he says. "The lousy reflection in the lens of [Nicholson's camera]

when he's photographing Hollis and Katherine from the roof [at El

Macondo]...I wanted to [film] it upside down and [was told], 'Oh they will

never understand it. Why is it upside down?' Shit yes, when you see

something reflected in the lens, it's always upside down! It should be

upside down, it should be slightly concave. That could [have been] better."

Robert Towne, 64, who won an Academy Award for his "Chinatown"

screenplay, also likes the film now more than he did when it was

released. He cites his own favorite scenes. "[I like] the way in which we

worked the scene with that wonderful character actress [Fritzi Burr] who

was the secretary for Yelburton in the Water department: [imitating her]

'Yes, yes, they own the water department!' [Imitating Nicholson] 'I take a


PAGE FOUR

long lunch hour -- all day sometimes.' That willingness to irritate her in

order to get information: very few directors would insist on that," says

Towne.

Both Polanski and Towne were not fans of the picture when they saw

the rough cut of it in the spring of '74. "I finished the film and I looked at

the rough cut and as usual the rough cut is this very depressing moment for

a director," says Polanski. "And a director who does not have experience

[with] it is close to suicide at that stage. But even knowing that that very

difficult moment would pass, I still was tremendously depressed seeing the

rough cut. I showed it to a friend of mine...and was so ashamed when the

lights came up. And he said, 'What a great movie!' I said, 'Jesus, is

something wrong with him?' I truly didn't think that he could be right."

Polanski says he never once thought during the making

of the movie that it would become a classic. Neither did Paramount's

Robert Evans, who produced the film. "Up until the time the reviews

broke, we weren't sure whether we had a disaster on our hands or

something that was just different," says Evans, adding that most Paramount

executives openly predicted the film would fail.


PAGE FIVE

From its birth as a sprawling first-draft script in '73, "Chinatown"

was never considered a commercial sure-shot. At first, even Polanski

passed on the project (at the time, he was busy in Rome). "I really

felt happy in Rome," says Polanski. "I was working there, I had a great

house and a bunch of friends with whom I worked. It just wasn't interesting

for me to go to make a film in Los Angeles."

Besides, Los Angeles reminded him of personal tragedy; four years

earlier, his wife Sharon Tate, pregnant with their child, was sadistically

murdered by members of Charles Manson's gang. "I had too vivid

memories of all those events of '69 [the Manson murders] and I didn't

feel like going to work there," he says.

But the calls from Hollywood to Rome kept coming, first from

Nicholson, who personally asked Polanski to direct the script, and then

from Evans, who apparently made the director an offer he couldn't refuse.

Polanski was soon on a plane to LAX.

What eventually followed was a pivotal eight-week writing session

in which Polanski and Towne dismantled Towne's script and then

painstakingly rebuilt it piece by piece. Their writing workday would


PAGE SIX


begin around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning and would last until around seven

or eight in the evening -- and was usually followed by a night of hard

partying.

"I don't think there was a day that we worked that we didn't go out

and play at night," says Towne. "The mood at night was -- it was the 1970s.

We had a good time. Fooled around. I'll leave it at that." (Apparently, the

after-hours carousing continued even during the shooting: "[Nicholson]

could stay up until six in the morning [partying] but he would be there [on

the set] at eight or nine knowing his lines like nobody else," says Polanski.

"There was never any kind of problem with him.")

In the day, during the eight-week re-writing marathon, Polanski and

Towne were faced with the huge task of making the muddy script filmable.

"[The first draft] was gigantic and could not actually be shot the way it was

written," says Polanski. "But there were terrific things in it. The second

draft, I remember Robert [Towne] took a long time and then it was even

longer. There were many more characters and it was quite convoluted. We

sat down and with discipline tried to combine some things." Towne

concedes that if his first draft had been filmed as it was, "it would have


PAGE SEVEN


been a mess."

Most of the re-writing consisted of re-sequencing scenes while

organizing and clarifying the complicated plot. "We took the script and

broke it down into one-sentence summations of each scene," says Towne.

"Then we took a scissors and cut those little scenes...and pasted them on

the door of the study at his house where we were working. And the game

was to shift those things around until we got them in an order that worked."

"At an early stage in the writing of it, I remember...thinking, what

should be revealed first: the real estate scandal, the water scandal or the

incest?," says Towne. "As obvious as the answer became, that was the

first question I dealt with. And I did realize the water scandal had to come

first, a fairly obvious choice when you stop to think about it. But beyond

that, the rest of the structural changes of significance took place with

Roman, shifting them around back and forth."

Polanski says he "did more of a construction, the shaping up of the

plot...And also I worked on the dialogue in [a] way that people can go

crazy sitting with me because I like eliminating every unnecessary word."

He also put Gittes into sharper focus, partly by using a radical style


PAGE EIGHT

of subjective point-of-view (in which he filmed much of the movie over

Nicholson's shoulder). "[Most of] the events that happen are really only

seen by [Gittes]," he says "You never show things that happen in his

absence."

Towne and Polanski argued frequently during their collaboration.

"We fought everyday," says Towne. "We'd fight about how to get to a

restaurant."

"['Chinatown''s success] happened through a lot of arguments,

fights," says Evans. "There was [backstage] warfare throughout the

picture, but that's healthy."

Their most substantial disagreement was about the ending of the film,

in which Towne wanted Cross to be killed by Evelyn. Polanski insisted on

a more disturbing finale in which Evelyn is shot dead in front of her young

daughter Katherine. "We were arguing about the end and could not

agree...I was adamant about it...I did not believe in a happy ending in this

type of a movie," says Polanski.

With the backing of Evans, Polanski eventually won the battle over

the ending. "I wrote that last scene the way it is now," says Polanski.


PAGE NINE

"And I sketched the dialogue and I remember in the evening I...gave

[Nicholson] what I wrote down and said, 'Fashion it into your speech.'

And Jack very quickly jotted a few things of his and then we shot it at

literally five to midnight." (Today, Towne says Polanski "was right about

the end.")

Many see the tragic ending as an echo of the horror of the Manson

murders on some level. That real-life tragedy also probably helped

Polanski turn Gittes into a credible detective. After all, the murder of

Polanski's wife turned the director into a sleuth for a time; in the months

before the killers were caught, he obsessively tried to find the culprits

himself.

Does Polanski think his own experience trying to track down his

wife's killers informed the film? "I can only tell you that every experience

helps you with your work. This, of course, did to a certain degree," he

says. "I am unable to tell you how much better the film is because I had

certain things happen to me. Whatever you do, you learn. And each next

movie has one layer more to make it richer."

Towne and Polanski made other changes to the script. The opening

PAGE TEN


scene where Gittes meets with his client Curly was originally written with

Curly saying he wanted to kill his wife, and Gittes telling him he's not rich

enough to get away with murder. And in fact the cut dialogue is missed

under close scrutiny; when Nicholson's character says, "I only brought it up

to illustrate a point," the audience now doesn't know what "point" he's

referring to, because the previous piece of dialogue is gone. (Gittes's

"point" is that you have to be rich to get away with murder.)

"That exchange I miss probably as much as any in the movie," says

Towne. "Because it really foreshadows [the] 'you've got to be rich to kill

somebody and get away with it' [theme]. He's really foreshadowing the

whole movie in a kind of nice way."

Two other sequences were edited out altogether: in one, Harry Dean

Stanton, playing a seaplane pilot who flies Gittes to Noah Cross's house,

hints at Evelyn's secret past. In the other, Noah talks about his love of

horse manure ("Love the smell of it," says Cross. "A lot of people do but,

of course, they won't admit it.")

By the end of the eight-week session, Polanski and Towne had

created a final working script. Unfortunately, they were also no longer


PAGE ELEVEN


speaking with one another. "By the beginning of the shooting [in

September 1973], Roman and I had argued to the point where I did not go

onto the set. At that point it was just wiser to let him shoot the movie. But

that was really largely because of the end scene," says Towne.

Contrary to rumor, Polanski never tried to bar Towne from the set.

"I never barred him from the set," says Polanski. "He just didn't come,

because we [weren't] on speaking terms anymore by the time I started the

picture." (The two have long since patched up their differences

and even worked together again on "Frantic." Towne now says that

Polanski is "virtually...the only director that I would willingly work for as a

writer.")

For the most part, the final screenplay was shot almost exactly as it

was written. "Once Roman and I agreed on the script, he held everyone's

feet to the fire," says Towne. "Whatever disagreements we had, they ended

when the script was written. Nobody said, 'well let's try it another way.'

That was the way."

During the shooting, changes were frequently suggested by Dunaway

-- and rejected by Polanski. "There were a lot of problems with Faye


PAGE TWELVE


Dunaway," he says. "Faye always wanted to change something. Some

nights I would...cross a couple words out. [She'd say]: 'Why are you

taking it out? I don't want you to.' I'd say, 'Okay, leave it, leave it. It's

not worth the fight.' Then she would come a half an hour later: 'You know

what? I thought it over, maybe you're right, we should remove it.' It was

like this every day. Or she would try to add something. 'Actually I don't

think it's a good idea, Faye,' [I'd say]. She would start fighting about it.

And it was like that continuously."

[Dunaway did not respond to repeated requests for an interview for

this article. But she did write about Polanski and "Chinatown" in a recent

book, "Looking for Gatsby: My Life," by Dunaway and Betsy Sharkey.

In the 1998 edition, she writes: "I thought Roman was thwarting me and not

supporting me (during the making of 'Chinatown')," and "Roman was an

autocrat, always forcing things." However, she also calls him "an auteur film

maker of the first order."]

Does Polanski think that Jane Fonda, who was up for the role at one

time, would've made a better Evelyn Mulwray? "No, he says. "Absolutely

not. I thought [Dunaway] was perfect. Nobody wanted Faye [initially].


PAGE THIRTEEN


Bob Evans didn't want her because he thought she was trouble. [But] I

knew Faye; she had a fling with a friend of mine...I didn't expect to have

any problems with her. So I fought for her. And I'm still very happy

we had her because whatever problems we had on the set -- who cares?...I

think she's terrific when I watch it now. It's really exactly how I saw the

part; she was the right age, she had the right looks, her acting was just

perfect for this type of character. I don't think anyone else would have

done it better. Same with John Huston."

Could "Chinatown" be made today in the current movie-making-by-

committee era? "I don't think it could, actually," says Polanski. " It would

really have to be [made by] someone who has enough muscle to pull

through all those things. Studios now have an enormous amount of various

executives who need to justify their existence by meddling into the creative

process. And there's a great rift between the creative branch and the

executive branch; [executives] are so envious of not being on the other

side...And they call themselves 'creatives.' There wouldn't be an executive


PAGE FOURTEEN


then who would dare to say, 'We are having a creative meeting' or 'We'll

send you the creative notes.' [Imitating a movie executive]: 'After our

creative meeting we came up with these five pages of creative notes which

we would like you to read.'...In those times, nobody would actually use this

language. The fact that they use it is very meaningful."

Polanski's apparent disillusionment with Hollywood isn't the only

reason he won't be showing up in town to make a film any time soon. He

still risks possible arrest for having had sex with a teenage girl in the 1970s, if

he returns to the States; he fled the U.S. in 1977 rather than face a probable

jail term. (He now lives in Paris with his wife, actress Emmanuelle Seigner,

and two children and makes films outside the U.S.)

And Polanski says he is not close at all to settling his legal problems.

"How can I [return to the U.S.] with the actual state of the media?,"

says Polanski. "I don't want to become a product...Can you imagine what it

would entail showing up suddenly in Los Angeles? It would take a long time

before...closure happens. And I don't think I want it enough. I have family to

look after. I don't want to be in every tabloid."


PAGE FIFTEEN


PART TWO

SOLVING THE MYSTERIES OF "CHINATOWN"'S PLOT

By Paul Iorio

Decades after "Chinatown"'s release, there are still enduring mysteries

about its plot. Polanski and Towne talked with me about a few of them.

WHAT WERE NOAH AND HOLLIS ARGUING ABOUT OUTSIDE
THE PIG N WHISTLE?

Polanski says it doesn't matter what they were arguing

about. "It was probably about Evelyn," he says. "They had a lot

of things to argue about...It's not necessary to know what they were arguing

about...Since it's only someone relating that they were arguing, we don't

have to know what they were arguing about."

Towne has a more specific explanation. "Hollis was saying, 'you

corrupt old fart, you're still fucking around with the water department. And

I'm not going to deal with you in that matter, I'm not going to build that

dam, and I'm not going to tell you where your daughter is.'"


PAGE SIXTEEN


WHY DOES HOLLIS BRING KATHERINE TO THE EL MACONDO
HIDEAWAY IF THEIR RELATIONSHIP IS COMPLETELY
INNOCENT AND HE HAS NOTHING TO HIDE?

"Because [Katherine] is in town secretly, to see her mother," says Towne.

"She's keeping her from Noah."


WHAT MYSTERY OBJECT DOES GITTES SEE BUT NOT
RETRIEVE FROM EVELYN'S POND NEAR THE BEGINNING OF
THE FILM?

According to Towne, the object was Noah's bi-focals (which Gittes

does retrieve in a later scene). The fact that it was in the pond at the time of

his first visit means Hollis had already been murdered by that morning.

(Evelyn, of course, had no idea he had been killed.)


WHAT DOES THE PHRASE "AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE" MEAN?

The enigmatic phrase "as little as possible" turns up in the last scene

and in the bedroom dialogue between Evelyn and Jake (incidentally, the two

passages written solely by Polanski, though the phrase was coined by

Towne). In many ways, it's the movie's defining phrase, since it points

to the title, a metaphor for an insular, venal, 'we-take-care-of-our-own'

type of precinct or community.


PAGE SEVENTEEN


"A vice cop had said to me [before I wrote the script], 'you know,

you don't do much in Chinatown,'" says Towne. "He said, 'You can't tell

whether you're helping someone commit a crime or preventing one, so you

just try to not do much.' I said, 'Well, that's kind of an interesting approach

to law enforcement.' And in fact that was the beginning" of the whole

project.


PART THREE

LOCATIONS IN "CHINATOWN"
Returning to the Scene of the Crime

By Paul Iorio

Of course, one of the big stars of "Chinatown" is Los Angeles itself.

"This is a Los Angeles movie, not a Hollywood movie," says production

designer Richard Sylbert, who chose the locations for the film.

The sixteen main locations in "Chinatown" -- ranging from a

Catalina hilltop to Echo Park Lake -- present a vision of a seductively

urbane -- and corrupt -- city, circa 1939.

"Robert Towne had this thing about Los Angeles, about

the history of the city, and that's what makes it so profound," Polanski told

me. "Without that, you would just have another detective thing. It's


PAGE EIGHTEEN


much more than a thriller."

As Towne says: "Roman repeatedly stressed the wisdom of

repeating...locations. In other words, if you've got one scene in

the department of water and power, make sure you've got two. It orients

an audience."

Here are some of "Chinatown"'s more memorable locations.

1. Ida Sessions's Apartment.

IN THE FILM: Near the end of the film, the body of the murdered Ida

Sessions is shown in her apartment -- at 848-1/2 East Kensington Street

(onscreen and off) -- sprawled on the floor with a spilled bag of groceries.

(Sessions -- played by Diane Ladd -- was the SAG member who passed

herself off as Evelyn Mulwray to Gittes at the beginning of the film.)

IN REAL LIFE: Set in a hilly Echo Park neighborhood south of Sunset, the

apartment house, painted light green now as then, is split in half by a central

bungalow-corridor, just like in the film. Ida's place is in the back, now

protected by a screen security door (which the fictional Sessions sure


PAGE NINETEEN


could've used at the time!).

COMMENTS: "It was picked [because] it was completely symmetrical and

had a long narrow passage in the middle of it, so that...you looked at it and

said, 'There can't be any problem here,'" says Sylbert. "But once you got

into that narrow corridor, the opposite happened, because narrow corridors

produce anxiety. And then, of course, you get to the door and the glass is

broken."
* * *
2. The Mar Vista Inn.

IN THE MOVIE: The Mar Vista Inn and Rest Home is where one of the

most breathtaking car escapes in the film -- and in film history -- takes

place. Gittes visits the home's elderly residents -- whose names are being

used without their knowledge in a land-laundering scam -- and ends up

fighting thug Claude Mulvihill, a former Ventura County sheriff. Dunaway

saves the day, swinging her car around the famous semi-circular driveway,

picking up Gittes and racing back onto Sunset as gunfire erupts.

IN REAL LIFE: The Inn is actually the Eastern Star Home (11725 Sunset

Blvd.), near a commercial strip in Brentwood at Barrington, and is

immediately recognizable from the film. One can stroll along the famous


PAGE TWENTY


driveway (and imagine Polanski's gunmen coming up the walk) and climb

the stairs to the entrance where Gittes battered Mulvihill's skull.

COMMENTS: "Every important building in this movie [had to be] white

and Spanish [and] had to be above [Gittes's] eye level," says Sylbert.

"And because it's above his eye level, it's automatically...harder for him to

go there visually...And he's a detective. And uphill is where he's [going]."

* * *

3. Noah Cross's Estate.

IN THE MOVIE: Gittes has lunch here with Noah Cross, who tells Gittes

to "just find the girl."

IN REAL LIFE: Cross's house is actually the mountain-top Wrigley estate

and horse farm on Catalina island.

COMMENTS: "When [Gittes] got off the boat, he walked on to that

wonderful dock where you can see the Avalon ballroom in the

background," says Sylbert. "And we cut [to] the Wrigley Ranch."

* * *


PAGE TWENTY-ONE


4. Echo Park Lake.

IN THE MOVIE: Gittes and associate Duffy spot Hollis Mulwray with his

"girlfriend" at the north end of Echo Park Lake. Aboard a boat, Gittes

surreptitiously photographs Hollis in a nearby canoe.


IN REAL LIFE: The lake looks exactly as it did 25 years ago. Its

trademark bridge, visible in the film, is now creaky and red, leading to a

damp island full of pigeons and palms. Located south of Sunset and north

of the 101, it also sports a boat station that rents out peddle-boats by the

hour.

COMMENTS: Sylbert says the lake is the perfect location "if you're doing

1939 and you're after something that says 'California' so clearly, which

that does, with the little bridge in it and the palm trees all around."

"When you start a movie like this you begin to understand that you

have to go to the old part of town," he says. "And that's why I came up

with Echo Park, and that's why Ida Session's house ended up in that area,

too."
* * *


PAGE TWENTY-TWO


5. City Hall.

IN THE MOVIE: Near the beginning of the film, Gittes spies on Hollis at a

public meeting at L.A. City Hall in which Hollis states his opposition to the

building of a risky dam project. Meanwhile, Valley farmers, irate over

having their land dried up by illegal water diversion, protest by bringing

sheep into the meeting.

IN REAL LIFE: L.A. City Hall is located downtown on Spring Street.

COMMENTS: "The meeting was shot...in the chamber. All I did was put a

huge picture of Roosevelt on the wall," says Sylbert.
* * *

6. The Pig 'N' Whistle.

IN THE FILM: The fictional Pig 'n' Whistle restaurant appears in the film

as the backdrop for an argument between Cross and Hollis Mulwray,

captured in clandestine photographs by Walsh, Gittes's associate.

IN REAL LIFE: This is actually the Pacific Dining Car restaurant (1310

West Sixth St.), at Witmar Street and Sixth, just west of downtown L.A.

(The Dining Car was built in 1921, in the heyday of the Mulwrays.)

COMMENTS: The actual eatery was the place to eat and deal downtown


CONVERSATIONS -- CHAPTER ONE -- PAGE TWENTY-THREE


back when. (Sylbert took the photographs shown in the film.)

* * *
7. The Brown Derby.

IN THE MOVIE: After Hollis is murdered, Gittes and Evelyn Mulwray

meet over lunch at this swank restaurant. Gittes spends most of the meeting

being unjustifiably suspicious of Evelyn.

IN REAL LIFE: The original Brown Derby, representing the elegance of

old L.A., is now gone. In its place is a commercial strip called the Brown

Derby Plaza (and a vacant space where the actual Derby used to be) on the

3400 block of Wilshire, across from the old Ambassador.

* * *

8. El Macondo Apartments.

IN THE FILM: El Macondo is the so-called "love nest" in which Gittes

finds Hollis with a mysterious young woman (actually Katherine). Nicholson

climbs onto the red-tile roof and shoots photos of the two in the courtyard

below. (This is the scene Polanski said he wanted to show upside

down, in the reflection of the camera lens.)



PAGE TWENTY-FOUR


IN REAL LIFE: The apartment building is now called Mi Casa, at 1400-

1414 Havenhurst Drive, between Sunset and Fountain. The stylish four-story

Spanish structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.

COMMENTS: Sylbert named it El Macondo after the name of a city in a

Gabriel Marquez novel. "It was perfect, " says Sylbert. "It was Spanish,

it was white, and we could get to the roof tiles and shoot down into the

courtyard."


9. 1712 Alameda, Chinatown.

IN THE MOVIE: Evelyn is shot to death by detective Loach in the final

sequence and Katherine is whisked away by Noah Cross, in front of Khan's

apartment at the screen address 1712 Alameda.

IN REAL LIFE: The final scene was actually shot on the west side of North

Spring Street in Chinatown, just south of Ord Street.

COMMENTS: Polanski says he filmed this scene at five minutes to

midnight on one of the final days of shooting after quickly scripting a new

ending hours earlier.
* * *


PAGE TWENTY-FIVE


10. Evelyn Mulwray's House.

IN THE MOVIE: This is Evelyn's house -- at the non-existent 1412

Adelaide Drive -- where Gittes discovers a tell-tale piece of evidence in the

backyard salt-water pond. In a later scene here, he's forced to surrender

the evidence to Mulvihill.

IN REAL LIFE: Sources say the house is in Pasadena, at 1315 El Molino,

north of Mission.

COMMENTS: Sylbert says the house was an abandoned wreck before it

was completely renovated and redesigned by the "Chinatown" crew, who

even put in the pond.

"If you watch the scene carefully, you'll notice that when you're in the

backyard, you cannot see [nearby buildings]," says Sylbert. "Because in

1939, the whole image I was after was that there was nothing out there."

Sylbert also chose the place because one can see in a straight line

from the backyard through the house to the front entrance. "At the end of

the movie, when [Gittes] is waiting for Noah Cross, he's standing at that



PAGE TWENTY-SIX


back doorway and you can see the car with Cross pull up at the front

door," he says. (The practice of shooting action in one room through the

action in another room is virtually a Polanski trademark.)

* * *


11. The Oak Pass Reservoir.

IN THE MOVIE: The Oak Pass is where Hollis is found dead and where

Gittes has his nose sliced by a thug played by Polanski.

IN REAL LIFE: The location's real name is the Stone Canyon Reservoir,

one of the major reservoirs near the L.A. basin. It's in the Santa Monica

mountains above Bel Air and close to Benedict Canyon (not far from

where Polanski's wife was murdered in real-life).

COMMENTS: "The sluice that the body was in when they pulled [Hollis]

up -- that's there, too," says Sylbert.

* * *

12. Point Fermin Park.

IN THE FILM: Early in the movie, Gittes follows Hollis to Point Fermin

and watches him walk down a bluff to the Pacific, where fresh water is

CONVERSATIONS -- CHAPTER ONE -- PAGE TWENTY-SEVEN


being dumped in the middle of a drought. This is also where Gittes puts

stop-watches beneath the wheels of Hollis's car in a cul-de-sac.

IN REAL LIFE: This is Point Fermin, a public park on the coast of San

Pedro.

COMMENTS: "I made a cut-out [of a lighthouse] about 25-feet high...It

was a quarter-mile away from the camera so you could make


was a quarter-mile away from the camera so you could make it look like a

lighthouse," says Sylbert, referring to the scene in which Gittes lounges in a

suit on the bluff at twilight. (The real Point Fermin lighthouse was not in

operation at the time.)
* *

Other locations in the film include: the "Hollenbeck Bridge," where

Gittes approaches a boy on a donkey; the place is actually in the Tujunga

Canyon area.

The orange groves in the northwest valley, where Gittes is assaulted

by farmers, are in the Fillmore Orchards, near Santa Clara. Curly's house

was not in San Pedro but in Hollywood, a few blocks from Paramount

studios. And Katherine's house, at the onscreen address 1972 Canyon



PAGE TWENTY-EIGHT


Drive, is either in a neighborhood near Paramount or in the Hollywood Hills

(where the real 1972 Canyon looks much like the celluloid one); sources

conflict here.

The only backlot location in the film is the barbershop. "I built a

barber shop...so I could put an automobile outside the window and

overheat the engine," says Sylbert about the scene in which Gittes himself

vividly overheats.

The Water Department offices, the Hall of Records, Gittes's office,

and the room where the famous "sister/daughter" scene takes place were all

studio sites.


[From The Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1999; original manuscript and updated.]
_____________________________________________
________________________________________________


[PUBLISHED IN LOS ANGELES NEW TIMES]

Richard Pryor, At Twilight on Sunset

An Eyewitness Account of Pryor's Last Two Concerts

By Paul Iorio


It's twilight on Sunset outside The Comedy Store between the billboards of

dead icons James Dean and Frank Zappa and just down the street from where

John Belushi shot his last speedball. Around fourteen comics are scheduled to

perform at The Store tonight, but there are no lines around the block and no ticket

scalpers on the sidewalk, despite the star power of one of the fourteen, the one

whose name appears on the outdoor marquee that reads: "Richard Pryor Tonight."

Pryor is about to perform what will become the last two shows of his life. It's

July 17, 1996.

Defying his own multiple sclerosis, he is set to take the stage at The Comedy

Store, the West Hollywood, comedy club where he created his best

material in the 1970s, the birthplace of his codger character Mudbone and a lot of

other prime stuff.

But expectations for a laugh are lower than the setting sun, since Pryor's M.S.

sometimes makes him not just unfunny, but incoherent. No reporters, except this

one, are on hand to witness Pryor's swan song.

Outside the club, stray Sunset Strip toughs walk and loiter. Inside, a couple

hundred fans file into the place, perhaps to glimpse whatever legendary fire

remains or to pay respect to a bona fide comic genius or to survey the shambles

of a collective youth lost to drugs, illness and the ravages of time. A solo pianist

plays "We're in the Money" and other jaunty tunes.

Five comics warm up for Pryor tonight. Though none could have touched him

back when, the openers are now the ones evoking most of the laughter, if not the

attention. The best is stand-up Mark Curry, star of the Nineties television series

Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, who kills live.

"Free Willy: some people thought it was about some brother in jail. 'Willy

didn't do all that shit, 'know,'" jokes Curry, as the crowd explodes.

And there are laughs for Argus Hamilton, the former Tonight Show regular and

writer for Pryor's TV show in the Seventies ("O.J. says to A.C.: 'I told you Costa

Rica not Costa Mesa!'").

By 10:00 p.m., the place is packed with Pryor fanatics and stand-up

aficionados. Pryor is late but no one seems to mind a bit. An exquisitely

pissed-off set by the very spontaneous Ellen Cleghorne takes everyone's mind

off the delay.

Then, at long last there's commotion at the back of the club as Marvin

Gaye's "What's Goin' On?" blasts from speakers. Two massive guys carry a frail,

thin, dapper man who looks, well, more like Mudbone than the person he used

to be. The full house stands and applauds vigorously but in a somewhat

ceremonial way, as if he were receiving some sort of lifetime achievement award.

Some in the audience seem to be taken aback by Pryor's physical deterioration.

The music stops, the crowd sits.

It's around 10:50 p.m. and, against enormous odds, Pryor has just reclaimed

the stage at the Comedy Store.

Pryor is wearing a red cap and sits in his wheelchair next to a stool that has

a glass of water on it. A handler puts a pair of glasses on the comedian and then

leaves the stage.

"These are glasses, right?" Pryor quips, calling the thick lenses "Coke

bottles." The audience, which is primed to laugh, laughs.

"I appreciate that you laugh at me no matter what I say," says Pryor. The

crowd laughs again. One senses that Pryor, like his early mentor Redd Foxx,

could die onstage clutching his heart, and the audience would roar at the bit.

"I'm gonna die soon," he continues. Twenty-five years ago, that line might have

kicked off a sidesplitter, like the classic in which he impersonates someone

panicking during a bad acid trip by repeating "I'm-gonna-die, I'm-gonna-die" like

a mantra-turned-tribal-chant. But tonight, it's decades later, and "I'm-gonna-die"

means I'm-gonna-die. A sexy blonde woman in the front center row is quietly

weeping, occasionally wiping tears from her face.

"People ask me, 'Are you pissed off?' I say, 'Yeah!,'" Pryor says.

Pryor tries to sip something but has major trouble bringing the cup to his lips.

There's a long pause.

"I hope you're as nice to other comics as you are to me," says Pryor.

"We love ya, Rich," yells someone.

"Yeah, babe," shouts another.

A waitress serves the front rows, and Pryor spots her.

"What're you doin'? Stealin' drinks?" he jokes. A hint of the old fire.

He sips and softly says, "Shit," at something private.

"Thanks for listening to me...It's been weeks since I saw my dick hard," he

says. This from a guy who used to joke his cock was "hard enough to cut

diamonds."

"Hold the mike up to you, sir," someone shouts. "So we can hear you."

"I don't want you to hear me," snaps Pryor. A long silence.

"Life's a bitch," he says, drooling a bit.

"And then you die?" adds a fan.

"Yeah, but when?" asks Pryor. "I don't mind hanging around, but shit!"

"When they said I had M.S., I said, 'I don't even know what M.S. is,'" says Pryor.

"Doctor said, 'Don't worry, you will.'"

A woman in the front row gets up to leave.

"Where you goin', pretty lady?" Pryor asks. The moment recalls a scene from

the movie "Lenny," where the Lenny Bruce character shouts, "Where're you

going?" to fans leaving a lousy show of his. But this isn't "Lenny," and he isn't

Lenny. Bruce died alone, broke and blacklisted; Pryor is dying with lots of friends

and fans -- and at least some money.

So when he says, "Where you goin', pretty lady?," the woman smiles at him

and says apologetically, "I'm going to the bathroom."

"I told my mom, 'Dad is fucking everyone in the neighborhood.' She said, 'Just

be glad he isn't fucking you,'" jokes Pryor. Fans laugh.

He pauses. "Bear with me." The audience is now silent enough that unrelated

laughter from an adjoining room can be heard.

Out of the blue, Pryor says, "Thanks, Jenny," referring to his ex-wife Jennifer

Lee, who he has since re-married and who handles his life and career with the

dedication of a true believer.

"I beat Jenny up sometimes a long time ago," says Pryor. "She's the first

woman who ever hit me in the mouth. [pause] Just because I asked her for some

pussy."

The crowd applauds. Then, attendants come to carry Pryor offstage, the

audience gives him a standing ovation, and recorded music plays. He was

onstage for forty minutes. The applause seems as much for his courage as for

any humor.

And his raw honesty is jarring in this Age of Spin, when celebrities pay

publicists nice money to hide scandals or twist them into something

unrecognizable. Pryor seems proud of his imperfections -- or at least proud of not

hiding them -- and freely jokes about his bad health, his lavish drug use, the

brothels of his childhood, even something as reprehensible as wife-beating. No

muckraker could possibly expose Pryor's dark side because the comic has

already scooped them.

A week later, on July 24, 1996, Pryor performs another show at the Comedy

Store, literally the last performance of his life.

This time he is feistier and funnier -- at first. With the small club packed again,

and no journalists present (except this one) again, Pryor gets some genuine

laughs when he refers to fellow M.S. victim Annette Funicello as "that

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E bitch."

"Put the mike closer," someone yells.

"Fuck you!," snaps Pryor, and people howl. Pryor actually seems to like it

when the crowd is rude and less reverential, perhaps because he's then under no

obligation to be appreciative, or maybe because he's developed a taste for

hecklers.

After joking about "getting pussy in the rehab ward," the show takes a steep

dive. "I got a mouthful of shit," Pryor says, "and I can't..." He trails off.

Pryor pulls out a piece of paper and tries for minutes to unfold it. An uneasy

silence fills the place. It's almost like the scene in the movie "Born on the Fourth of

July" when Ron Kovic starts a public speech smoothly, but suddenly and

inexplicably stops dead as the audience watches in shock.

"Take your time," someone shouts.

Pryor continues trying to unfold the paper but his hands just aren't agile

enough to do it. His body is progressively failing him with every passing minute.

"We're not going anywhere," a guy yells.

"Neither am I," says Pryor, grumbling about not having his "big-ass Coke bottle"

glasses again. After several minutes, he finally finishes unfolding the paper and

stares at it for awhile. Now there's a new problem: he can't read it.

"This M.S. shit is getting to me," he says.

A handler brings Pryor a cigarette. Pryor flicks a bright red lighter once,

twice, and flames it the third time.

"Could you bring me a Number Twenty?" Pryor asks someone. A Number

Twenty, in Comedy Store parlance, is a martini.

"Yessir," comes the response from someone in the audience.

Smoke from Pryor's cigarette fills the air for an elastic, relaxed minute or so.

In the spotlight, smoke hovers over the front rows like cumulus clouds that are

ready to drench and thunder with electricity. But the fire and fury don't come.

The crowd is silent.

"You all are very patient," Pryor says.

"We gotta be; we paid ten dollars," says someone, good-naturedly.

"Hey, don't start no shit!," Pryor says.

Through the smoke, Pryor lifts his Number Twenty feebly, as if he's Dave the aged

astronaut in the time travel sequence of "2001: A Space Odyssey." With smoke

and silence everywhere, the whole place seems to be caught in a time warp; a

minute ago we were in 1976 (wasn't that a minute ago?) and suddenly we're

transported to the present-day, where there's this old man onstage in the house

of his prime. Could this really be the same guy who thirty years ago had such

masterful physical control that he could impersonate a race car, run hilariously in

slow motion, or convince audiences he was having a heart attack by falling to

the floor?

"I know I can't see, but when I wear the Coke bottles, then everybody knows

it," he says. He smokes his cigarette, his breathing now audibly labored.

"I'm glad I've got M.S. -- it's keeping me alive," he says. "Isn't that what you

said, Jenny?" Pryor was referring to Lee's much-quoted theory that if the disease

hadn't slowed him down, he'd have been killed in the fast lane by now.

Onstage, Pryor's cigarette burns to his fingertips, and he isn't physically able

to remove it. "Get this motherfuckin' cigarette out of my hand 'cause it's burning

me!" he blurts, real pain in his voice. A handler bounds onstage to take it away.

As it turned out, those were Pryor's very last words onstage anywhere. He

would never attempt another stand-up performance.

The half-hour show ends at 11:20 p.m., as two muscular guys carry him

offstage. Pryor is driven home.

[Parts of this story first appeared in New Times Los Angeles in October 1996; it's also the first chapter of my book on Pryor, so it was re-written in late 2005.]

______________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________

[FROM THE TORONTO STAR]

The Immiedate TV Coverage of the First Two Crashes on 9/11
(The Live Coverage Viewers Missed)

By Paul Iorio

By now, everyone has seen virtually every inch of television coverage of

the September 11th attacks around nine hundred and eleven times. It

sometimes seems as if every scrap of 9/11 footage ever shot -- whether taken

upside down near Ground Zero or from faraway Rockaway -- has already

been aired more frequently than the Zapruder film.

But most TV viewers never got to see the most riveting 9/11 television

coverage of all: the raw live footage of the seventeen minutes between the

first plane crash at 8:46 and the second at 9:03 am, as seen on the morning

news shows.

In New York, television programming was largely knocked off the air by

the toppling of transmission antennae atop the Trade Center. And on the west

coast, almost everyone was asleep during the attacks, waking only in time to

see the first tower collapse.

So for those who missed it -- almost everybody -- there's now a website

library that has compiled streaming video of all major U.S. television news

programs from that morning, shown in real-time with ads intact -- plus a

generous sampling from overseas media outlets. (The site is run by a non-

profit online TV library called The Television Archive and can be accessed at

http://client.alexa.com/tvarchive/html. Its American network feeds are from

Washington, D.C., affiliates; MSNBC and the cable Fox News Channel are

not included in the archive.)

The coverage from 8:30-to-9:30-am is among the most engrossing ever

broadcast -- and some of the most inadvertently telling, too, since it clearly

reveals who among the anchors and correspondents got it right and who blew

it, who could think on their feet and who couldn't, as the ultimate breaking

news story unfolded.

There are surprises. For example, Charles Gibson, co-anchor of ABC's

"Good Morning America," did an unexpectedly fine job of covering the

moment when the second plane hit and was the only anchor on the three

major networks to immediately speak up and tell us what had happened.

Others, like Bryant Gumbel, the now-departed anchor of CBS's "The Morning

Show," contributed astonishingly awful reportage.

The first to break the news to America was CNN, which cut into an

advertisement at 8:49, three minutes after the first crash, with a live picture of

the burning north tower and the words: "This just in. You are looking at

obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center

and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into

one of the towers."

"Good Morning America" arrived second, at 8:51, with Diane Sawyer

saying, "We want to tell you what we know as we know it. But we just got a

report in that there's been some sort of explosion at the World Trade Center."

(And within a couple minutes, ABC correspondent Don Dahler was providing

terrific first-hand reportage via cellphone from near Ground Zero.)

Matt Lauer of NBC's "Today" would have been third, coming a half

minute after "GMA," had he not dropped the ball. At 8:51, Lauer broke away

from an interview to announce that there was breaking news but didn't say

what the news was. "I have to interrupt you right now," Lauer told his guest,

the author of a biography on billionaire Howard Hughes. "We're going to go

live right now and show you a picture of the World Trade Center, where I

understand -- Do we have it? No, we do not." He then cut to 90 seconds of

ads before Katie Couric returned to the airwaves to report what had

happened.

But the real test of anchor mettle came at the moment when the second

plane hit at 9:03. "GMA"'s Gibson took control forcefully and calmly within

two seconds of the second collision, describing events in a brisk and firm

manner, explaining what was occurring in the live footage, and rattling off

facts from memory, while showing genuine emotion ("Oh, this is terrifying,

awful"), as a wilting Diane Sawyer murmured, "Oh my god, oh my god."

Gibson was so alert that he actually broke the news of the second collision

to his correspondent at the scene, who didn't see the plane hit. And within

twenty seconds, Gibson, the first on any network to mention the Trade Center

terrorist attack of '93, was speaking plain truth before his colleagues did: "So

this looks like some sort of a concerted effort to attack the World Trade

Center that is underway." That statement may seem cautious in hindsight, but

at the time was as far as any anchor had gone on the air.

On "Today," Couric and Lauer were upstaged a bit by a sometimes

excellent witness, Elliot Walker, a Today producer who happened to be

walking near the towers when the first plane hit. Walker was already being

interviewed by the anchors when the second plane crashed, and she

spontaneously stepped into the lead role during the ten seconds after the

impact, describing exactly what had happened, while Couric and Lauer, who

had presumably seen the same thing on the TV monitor, were silent (in

contrast to the talkative Gibson on ABC).

By all rights, every network should have been on equal footing at 9:03,

with live cameras fixed on the twin towers at the moment of impact. Still,

"The Morning Show" and CNN's "Live This Morning," which had shifted to

feeds from local New York stations, failed miserably in this crucial part of the

reportage, their anchors seemingly confused about what was obvious to

reporters on other networks. One ludicrous affiliate correspondent, picked up

on CNN, cluelessly floated the idea that the two collisions might have been

the result of "faulty navigating equipment."

CNN fared better when its own newspeople returned to the airwaves, in

time to report the Pentagon hit and the south tower collapse, which Aaron

Brown covered from a visually dramatic outdoor setting some thirty blocks

from Ground Zero, with the burning towers as a backdrop (a visual that has

since been seen in CNN promos).

Meanwhile, Gumbel proved he couldn't see the finger in front of his face

on this clear Manhattan morning, while also expressing little sense of horror

about what was unfolding ("wow" and "it's a terrible scene" were the closest

he came).

Gumbel, who seemingly had to be told about the second crash by an

amateur witness ("You saw a plane?," he asked a witness, incredulously),

interviewed several observers who all told him the second plane had

obviously been flown deliberately into the tower. Yet he kept asking each

source the same idiotic question: "Why do you say it was deliberate?," a

question he asked no fewer than four times between 9:03 and 9:12, while

repeating such phrases as vantage point and re-racking the [video] tape. (By

contrast, Lauer suggested it was something deliberate at 9:05; Gibson had

already done so at 9:03. Gumbel didn't come around until about 9:19.) This,

from the distinguished news division of Dan Rather and Ed Bradley.

If Gumbel seemed to somehow miss the crash of the second plane, he

was the only anchor who thought he saw non-existent third and fourth jets

approach the burning towers at 9:41. "Hold it, hold it!," said a near-panicky

Gumbel to his guest. "Two jets right now, approaching the World Trade

Center! We're watching! Hold on! [pause] I'm sorry, no...we can't tell

whether it was a plane or a 'copter."

Gumbel, who inexplicably wasn't joined by any CBS News correspondent

until Jim Stewart appeared at 9:15, did hit one high note, at 8:57, when he

interviewed a doorman at the Marriott World Trade Center, the hotel that

used to be between the two towers. The doorman began like a cocky New

Yorker ("How ya doin'?") but his voice started cracking unexpectedly as he

poignantly described the trauma he had just seen: a man on fire outside the

hotel.

"I heard a guy screaming," said the doorman, seeming on the verge of

tears. "And when I looked over, there was this guy that was on fire. So I just

kind of like ran over and I tried to, like, put the fire out on him. And he was,

he was, like, screaming. I told him to roll, roll, and he said he can't. And

another man came over with his bag and kind of like put the flames out on

him."

"Today" also had raw and revealing moments. At one point, Couric read a

Reuters report that opened a horrifying window on the hell that was taking

place on the upper floors of the towers: "A person who answered the phone

on the trading floor at interdealer-broker Cantor Fitzgerald, located near the

top of the World Trade Center, said, 'Were blanking dying,' when asked what

was happening, and hung up. There was screaming and yelling in the

background, and a follow-up call was not answered."

Several anchors and witnesses made observations that now seem

perceptive and even prescient in retrospect. Couric was more correct than

she knew when she noted (at 9:37) the possibility that another attack might be

in the offing at any moment; one minute after she voiced that concern, the

Pentagon was attacked. (And thanks to a quick and well-placed Jim

Miklaszewski, Today scooped everyone on the Washington crash.)

CBS's Stewart was the first to mention Osama bin Laden on the air (at

9:16). ABC's John Miller understood faster than anyone else that there was

virtually no way people trapped on the upper floors of the towers could be

rescued, because of the heavy smoke. Lauer was the first to note the

terrorists's high level of coordination and planning. Dahler, who heard the

first plane hit, correctly dismissed the early widespread notion that the aircraft

had been a small prop plane.

There were also moments of bad information. For instance, Sawyer tried

to put something of a happy-ending on the tragedy at 9:07 by stating, "There's

a small hope that the fire may have gone out from the first site" (Dahler

quickly extinguished that false hope). And Couric read a report, later

repeated by Lauer, that claimed a small commuter plane had hit the north

tower.

The tone of the anchors shifted -- almost uniformly -- as the hour

progressed, from denial and confusion to horror, with disbelief throughout.

After the first attack, everyone on the air seemed to take solace in the

possibility that it might have been a simple accident by a pilot who had lost

control of his plane and wrecked in an unlucky spot. But after the second

attack, it was self-evident to virtually everyone that there was no innocent

explanation for what was happening.

The 8:30 hour is also fascinating because it shows the 9/11 era

arriving as abruptly and violently as the edge of a hurricane after the placid

eye of the storm. "[It's]...a beautiful fall morning," Couric noted before the

tragedy. "A beautiful day here," said "GMA" weatherman Tony Perkins.

"...It's kind of quiet around the country [weather-wise]...it's too quiet, said an

inadvertently prescient Mark McEwen on "This Morning."

After the attacks, the weather was mentioned only in relation to the fact

that the collisions couldn't have possibly been weather-related.

All told, there were no lost tempers, no crying, no real panicking on the

air. There was also no single dazzling journalistic feat that might have

elevated one news team far above the others (something on the order of

scoring a cellphone interview with a passenger on one of the hijacked jets).

That said, the best coverage clearly came from ABC (because of Gibson)

and NBC (partly due to Miklaszewski), with almost everyone else way

behind.


[From The Toronto Star, January 4, 2003.]

_______________________________________________

WPOST NMEDICAL

_______________________

[FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE]

Lawrence Ferlinghetti on "Howl"

The Birth of Beat Pop Culture

By Paul Iorio

If the birth of the beat generation could be traced back to one event, it

would probably be the first public reading of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl"

45 years ago this month at the now defunct Six Gallery in San Francisco.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose City Lights Books published the poem in

1956, was in the audience that night and recalls the reading as an electric

event that galvanized the area's literary and arts community.

"Nobody had ever heard anything like that before," said Ferlinghetti,

sipping a Bass ale at the Tosca Cafe in the city's North Beach neighborhood.

"When you hear it for the first time, you say, 'I never saw the world like that

before."

"Howl," widely regarded as one of the great works of 20th-century

American poetry, is a 3,600-word torrent of unusually vivid and hellish

imagery written in the long-line style of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"

and echoing the rhythms of jazz. It has also become one of the most popular

poems in U.S. history, having sold nearly a million copies in its City Lights

edition -- very rare for a book of poetry.

The poem, the target of a landmark obscenity trial in 1957, also helped

turn publisher and bookseller City Lights into the center of the San Francisco

poetry renaissance of the 1950s.

At the time of the Six Gallery reading, on Oct. 7, 1955, Ginsberg was

living on Milvia St. in North Berkeley, and novelist Jack Kerouac ("On the

Road") was his houseguest. On the night of the event, the two took a bus into

San Francisco and then caught a ride with Ferlinghetti in his Aston Martin to

the Six Gallery, a combination art gallery and performance space at 3119

Fillmore St. near Union.

Six poets read that night, starting about 8 p.m. with Philip Lamantia and

moving on to Philip Whalen and Michael McClure. After a brief intermission,

Kenneth Rexroth, the host, introduced Ginsberg, who began his reading with

the now-classic line, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by

madness."

Kerouac sat on the side of the low stage, drinking from a jug of

wine and shouting, "Go!" at the end of some of the long lines. The audience

of fewer than a hundred soon joined in with shouts of encouragement,

exploding in applause at the conclusion, as Ginsberg left the stage in tears.

(Gary Snyder had the bad luck to follow Ginsberg.)

"Allen was really a master performer," says Ferlinghetti. "He could really

turn the audience on."

Afterward, Ginsberg, Kerouac and others celebrated at a Chinese

restaurant, while Ferlinghetti and his wife returned to their apartment on

Potrero Hill, to the south. "I wasn't one of his gang, I wasn't one of his group

at all," says Ferlinghetti. "He sort of considered me a square bookshop

owner....I was not in the inner circle at all. I was not invited to read at the

'Howl' reading because I wasn't known as a poet." (Ferlinghetti, formerly San

Francisco's poet laureate, went on to become an even more popular writer

than Ginsberg; his 1958 book-length poem "A Coney Island of the Mind" has

sold more than a million copies.)

"I sent Allen a Western Union telegram that night saying, 'I greet you at

the beginning of a great career. When do I get the manuscript?" he recalls.

The telegram echoed the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman

after the former had read an early version of "Leaves of Grass" (but Ginsberg

didn't initially catch the reference, Ferlinghetti says).

Ferlinghetti did soon get the manuscript, which was subsequently revised

for months by Ginsberg, who dropped a fifth part of "Howl" and added "A

Footnote to 'Howl.'" The three-part poem and its "Footnote" were ultimately

compiled with nine other Ginsberg poems in a book titled "Howl and Other

Poems," the fourth volume of City Lights' Pocket Poets paperback series.

Problems arose when Ferlinghetti, looking to save money, hired a British

printer, Villiers, to print the book. This led to a customs seizure that was

quickly dropped, but not before it brought the book to the attention of the San

Francisco Police Department, which filed its own obscenity charges against

Ferlinghetti for selling the poem. The trial, which lasted through the summer

and early fall of 1957, ultimately cleared Ferlinghetti of all charges.

As it turned out, the bust gave a big publicity boost to "Howl," which

became a hit only after -- and probably because of -- the trial. "Allen was

totally unknown until the book was busted," he says.

Ferlinghetti, 81, was older than most of the beats but has outlived its

leading lights, including Ginsberg, who died in 1997 at age 70; Kerouac, who

died in 1969 at 47; and novelist William S. Burroughs ("Naked Lunch"), who

died in 1997 at age 83.

So when it comes to the beat era, Ferlinghetti is among those who have the

last word. Of Ginsberg, he says: "There wouldn't have been any beat

generation recognized as such if it hadn't been for Allen. He created it out of

whole cloth, really. Without Allen, it would've been separate great writers in

the landscape, it wouldn't have been known as the beat generation."

Of Kerouac, he says: "Allen was always saying ... Kerouac was gay, but I

thought that was really absurd. He was one of the biggest woman chasers I

ever met."

And of the beat movement itself, he's still a believer: "The beat message

became the only rebellion around -- and it is still the same today. With the

dot-commies and the whole computer consciousness, the beat message is

needed now more than ever."


[From the San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 2000.]
_______________________________________________________


[FROM THE WASHINGTON POST]

Pulp Non-Fiction

(Doctors Diagnose Injuries in Movies)

By Paul Iorio

In Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," a gorgeous druggie played by Uma

Thurman bleeds from the nose and froths at the mouth after overdosing on

what she thought was cocaine. Her date for the night (John Travolta) panics

and tries to revive her by injecting adrenaline directly into her heart.

The scene may be memorable, but is it medically correct? Is it possible to

resuscitate an overdose victim by stabbing her in the chest with a needle

roughly the size of an ice pick?

Probably not, say some doctors.

Yet many filmgoers will probably be influenced by the medical advice of

Dr. Tarantino, since films provide a subliminal source of health information,

insidiously suggesting people can survive all sorts of trauma. But the truth

about injuries is actually very uncinematic; a person can easily be killed by

something as simple as a single blow to head.

According to several doctors, "Pulp Fiction"'s OD revival technique

wouldn't likely work. "The likelihood is much higher that you'd hurt someone

than help someone by doing that," says New York Hospital cardiologist Paul

Kligfield. "It's unequivocally never the first thing to do, even in a supervised

setting."

Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" also features some questionable medical

information. At one point, Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) talks to Mr. Orange

(Tim Roth), who is suffering from a gunshot wound to his lower abdomen.

"Along with the kneecap, the gut is the most painful area a guy can get shot

in," says Mr. White. "But it takes a long time to die from it. I'm talking

days."

Does it really take days? "If you have a gunshot wound to the abdomen,

the chances of having a significant injury are about 95 percent," says trauma

surgeon Michael Madden, clinical director of the New York Hospital-Cornell

Burn Center. He explains that if Mr. Orange's intestines had been punctured,

partially digested food would have leaked into his abdominal cavity, giving

him a quickly fatal case of peritonitis.

And is the gut really the most painful area to be shot in? "It depends on

where," says general surgeon James Mariadason. "There are people who are

shot in the belly who don't feel anything until many hours later."

Injury to the abdomen can be caused by less violent acts, like overeating.

Doctors say Paul Newman's character in "Cool Hand Luke" was behaving

foolishly when he ate 50 eggs, most of them hard-boiled, within an hour.

"I think you would get a protein overload," says gastroenterologist Martin

Finkel. "One would worry about over-distending the stomach and rupture."

"You'd cause such an obstruction to your gastric tract that you'd have

constipation for days if not weeks," adds Rose Ann Soloway, a specialist in

toxicology at the National Capital Poison Center. "That's something that

hard-boiled eggs do: they really slow up metabolism in the bowels."

There are certainly more dangerous things to ingest than eggs. In both

"Magnum Force" and "Heathers," characters die after drinking Drano-like

substances. But doctors say that sort of cocktail probably wouldn't kill you,

though it would inflict grievous injury.

Drain cleaner "is so caustic you can't kill yourself with it," declares

Finkel. "It's so caustic you can't get enough of it down."

It's also hard to swallow what happens after Mickey and Mallory of

"Natural Born Killers" suffer rattlesnake bites in Oliver Stone's film. The

unhappy couple search for an antidote at a drugstore. Doctors explain that

the local pharmacy is a highly unlikely place to find anti-venom. "The

chances of finding any would be very remote," says Soloway. "It's kept under

refrigeration, usually in medical centers."

Another famous Stone movie bite is the one he scripted for "Midnight

Express." After considerable abuse, the Brad Davis character bites off the

tongue of an adversary during a fight. In real life, the victim could bleed to

death or, at the very least, "speech would be affected and also chewing and

swallowing might be affected," says Steven Rosenberg, an oral surgeon.

A severed tongue isn't quite as perilous as the facial burns Max Cady

(Robert DeNiro) sustains in Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear." Near the end,

Cady's face, wet with lighter fluid, catches fire for fifteen seconds. And, after

that, he still plagues his former lawyer's family.

"A one-to-two-second burn when you're on fire would probably cause

significant damage. Fifteen seconds? That's absurd," says burn specialist

Madden. "He would have had third-degree burns on his face. That means all

layers of the skin would have been burned...The third-degree burns will not

kill him but the smoke inhalation might."

Of course, not all films are medically incorrect. Believe it or not, doctors

insist that it is plausible that the Harrison Ford character could have made that

famous leap to the river in "The Fugitive" without being injured. And the

leeches covering Humphrey Bogart's body in "The African Queen" would

have resulted in a loss of only a pint of blood, leaving him strong enough to

take on the Germans.

And it doesn't take a doctor to understand why movie-within-a-movie star

Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) emerges unscathed from a vicious fight in Woody

Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo." The reason? Baxter is in fact a bona fide

fictional character.

"I don't get hurt or bleed," Baxter says in the movie. "My hair doesn't

muss. It's one of the advantages of being imaginary."


[From the Washington Post, October 16, 1994.]

__________________________________________________


[PUBLISHED IN THE WASHINGTON POST]


The "Howl" Tour of San Francisco

A Pop Culture Tour

By Paul Iorio

Anyone looking for a unique way to visit the San Francisco area

might want to try touring the places where Allen Ginsberg wrote, revised

and publicly read his landmark 1955 poem "Howl."

The "Howl" (self-guided) tour provides a fresh view of Beat-era San

Francisco while also serving as a terrific excuse to visit some of the more

obscure neighborhoods in the Bay area.

"Howl," which turns 45 this year, is one of the seminal poems of 20th

century American literature, a defining work of the Beat generation and the

subject of an historic obscenity trial. Ginsberg, who grew up in New

Jersey and lived for many years in Manhattan, wrote it after living in

San Francisco for a year. (He ultimately stayed in the area for nearly two

years.) He and novelist Jack Kerouac ("On the Road"), who would later

join Ginsberg in Berkeley, were the most important of the Beat writers

(along with William S. Burroughs).

Written wholly in the Bay area, "Howl" was started on Montgomery

Street in San Francisco, was finished in North Berkeley, was partly

inspired by a building on Powell, was first publicly read in Pacific Heights

and was published (in '56) on Columbus Avenue in North Beach.

So where exactly did it all happen? Here's the tour.

1. The Marconi Hotel, 554 Broadway in North Beach.

IN 1955: When he arrived in San Francisco in August 1954, Ginsberg

rented a room here and stayed for nearly two months, according to journal

entries compiled in the book "Allen Ginsberg: Journals Mid-Fifties." His

rent was six dollars a week, according to the book "Dharma Lion: A

Biography of Allen Ginsberg" by Michael Schumacher. On one of his first

nights here, he wrote in his journal: "Back alone in a Hotel and once again

the great battle for survival."


IN 2000: Today, the Marconi still stands across an intersection from the

City Lights bookstore. The hotel, identified only by a small sign on its front

door, is located next to two sex clubs.


2. Ginsberg's Apt. at 1010 Montgomery Street in S.F.

IN 1955: The 29-year old Ginsberg wrote most of "Howl" here, two

blocks east of the Marconi, after moving from flats at 755 Pine,

1403 Gough and the Wentley Hotel. Living on unemployment insurance,

Ginsberg settled in a first-floor furnished apartment (with a view of

Montgomery St.) in February '55 with his lover Peter Orlovsky, according

to his journal. "I sat idly at my desk...only a few blocks from City

Lights literary paperback bookshop. I had a secondhand typewriter, some

cheap scratch paper. I began typing, not with the idea of writing a formal

poem, but stating my imaginative sympathies," Ginsberg said of the poem's

genesis in the Schumacher biography.

IN 2000: The grey three-story apartment building is on the northeast

corner of Montgomery and Broadway (at the point where Montgomery

begins a steep incline). Walk up the street toward the north for a

marvelous view of the city's east side.


3. Ginsberg's Apartment in North Berkeley at 1624 Milvia St.

IN 1955: Ginsberg revised all three parts of "Howl" (and its footnote)

here, moving to Milvia St. in September 1955 from his Montgomery

St. place. He paid $35 a month for a cottage in the back, according to

journal entries. "I have a house here...[with] a backyard cottage & private

backyard, quite big, filled with vegetables & flowers," he wrote in a letter

that is quoted in the book "Kerouac: A Biography" by Ann Charters.

(Ginsberg even wrote a poem about his new home called "A Strange New

Cottage in Berkeley," included in his pocket book "Reality Sandwiches.")

Other Beat luminaries lived in the neighborhood at the time, including

Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Robert Duncan. He left the cottage (and the

Bay Area) in June '56.

IN 2000: It's a three-story apartment house over a garage (a "dingbat," in

California slang), several blocks from the University of California at

Berkeley in a somewhat faded part of town. A "poetry garden" honoring

Ginsberg was recently dedicated on the grounds of an elementary school

across the street, according to the Berkeley Daily Planet newspaper.


4. The Six Gallery, 3119 Fillmore St. in the Pacific Heights/Cow Hollow

area of S.F.

IN 1955: The now defunct Six Gallery, an art gallery and performance

space founded in '54, was where Ginsberg first publicly read "Howl," on

October 13, 1955, a pivotal moment in Beat history. The event was

described by Schumacher in "Dharma Lion": "Jack Kerouac, sitting at the

edge of the platform, pounded in accompaniment on a wine jug, shouting

'GO!' at the end of each long line. The crowd quickly joined him in

punctuating Allen's lines...By the time he had concluded, [Ginsberg] was in

tears."

IN 2000: The Gallery is long gone but the neighborhood at Fillmore and

Union is thriving and commercially active, with many shops selling, coffee,

cigars, pastries and real estate. (The Gallery is now a rug shop located just

north of the intersection of Fillmore and Union.)


5. Mediterraneum Caffe, at 2475 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.

IN 1955: Ginsberg is said to have written and revised his poetry at this

Beat hang-out near the UC Berkeley campus.

IN 2000: The eatery, across from Moe's Books on Telegraph in the heart

of town, still features a sidewalk cafe and indoor restaurant.


6. The Sir Francis Drake Hotel at 450 Powell St. in SF.

IN 1955: The second part of "Howl" was inspired by and written at this

hotel. Ginsberg once said the hotel looked like "the robot skullface of

Moloch" and that he "wandered down Powell Street muttering 'Moloch

Moloch' all night and wrote 'Howl II' nearly intact in cafeteria at foot [sic]

of the Drake hotel," according to "Dharma Lion." The hotel, he wrote in

his journals, "may be coming to eat me someday."


IN 2000: The Drake is one of the city's best-known luxury hotels; on the

ground floor, at Powell and Sutter, is a coffee shop and outdoor cafe called

Cafe Expresso that is apparently a later incarnation of the cafeteria in which

Ginsberg wrote some of "Howl II."


7. City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave. in North Beach.

IN 1955: "Howl" was first published in 1956 by City Lights Books, the

publishing arm of the legendary City Lights Bookstore, co-founded in '53

by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who still owns it. It began as a paperbacks-

only shop but eventually expanded to include hard covers and a variety of

titles. In '57, Ferlinghetti and a store clerk were arrested for selling the

supposedly obscene "Howl"; the subsequent trial, which decided for City

Lights, made Ginsberg famous and turned his poem into a big hit.


IN 2000: City Lights remains one of the best-regarded bookstores in the

nation and is still owned by Ferlinghetti, now 80. (And City Lights Books

still publishes on the top floor.) A handwritten sign in the window describes

it as "A Kind of Library Where Books Are Sold." Another sign offers this

variation on Dante: "Abandon All Despair, Ye Who Enter Here."


8. Vesuvio Cafe at 255 Columbus Ave. in North Beach.

IN 1955: Ginsberg and other writers (including Dylan Thomas) frequently

drank in this North Beach bar next to City Lights. Ginsberg wrote about

Vesuvio in a 1954 journal poem called "In Vesuvio's Waiting for Sheila":

"Here at last a moment/in foreign Frisco...listening to the vague

conversation...anticipating leaning on the bar."


IN 2000: Still located on what is now called Jack Kerouac Alley, Vesuvio

is a well-preserved Beat shrine. The Cafe has a colorful outdoor mural on

its north wall and an epigram painted over the entrance that reads, "We are

itching to get away from Portland, Oregon" (a reference to a supposed

"flea epidemic" of 1915, according to a Cafe flier). During a recent visit to

the cafe at 8:50 on a Saturday morning, I found around a half dozen

patrons already at the bar, all watching (and poking fun at) a western movie

from the Fifties on the cafe's television.


9. Foster's Cafeteria at 235 Montgomery St. (the Russ Building) in the
Financial District.

IN 1955: In January 1955, Ginsberg mentioned Foster's so frequently in his

journal that one might think he worked there. He hung out at the cafeteria

mostly with Neal Cassady, Peter Orlovsky, Robert LaVigne and others in

the itinerant weeks before he moved to Montgomery Street. Typical journal

entries during this period include: "We go down to Foster's, I eat chili &

french fries" and "We sight Neal [Cassady]'s car pulling up...in front of

Foster's."


IN 2000: Foster's no longer exists, but the 31-story Russ Building, built in

1927, remains an S.F. landmark. Located in the financial district, the

building is home to many companies and shops.



[From The Washington Post, May 7, 2000.]
______________________________________

[FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES]

How Not to Blow Your Oscar Speech

By Paul Iorio

Winning an Oscar causes people to do strange things in public. It inspires

honorees to perform one-armed push-ups, to kiss statuettes, and to lose not

only their shoes but their heads on the way to the podium.

Few have truly mastered the art of the acceptance speech or can hit just

the right balance of grace, wit, gratitude and -- most important -- brevity.

Should one tell a joke, make a political statement, offer a verbal love letter?

Or is it best to hold back and say little? Whom do you thank? And how?

This is, after all, probably the largest audience a person will ever address

(particularly if the category is makeup), so it's a big opportunity. "There's

about one thousand million people watching you," the actor Paul Hogan once

said, "and you remember: one wrong word, one foolish gesture, and your

whole career could go down in flames."

But that needn't happen this year if award winners simply remember the

past and follow these pointers:


-- Go Easy on the Effusiveness.

The Oscar can cause winners to thank everything in (and out of) sight.

Avoid this tendency. Cautionary tales include the speech of John Patrick

Shanley, accepting the award for best original screenplay for "Moonstruck" in

1988, who thanked "everybody who ever punched or kissed me in my life and

everybody who I ever punched or kiss." Also, Robert DeNiro in 1981

thanked "Joey LaMotta, even though he's suing us" (he won for best actor for

"Raging Bull"). And at the 1980 ceremony, Robert Benton, accepting the

best director award for "Kramer vs. Kramer," said: "I would like to thank all

the people at Columbia past and present." And Ben Burtt, the sound effects

editing winner in '83 ("E.T."), even acknowledged "various otters and

horses."

Avoid Politics.

No, your win is not a mandate to negotiate with the Serbs in Bosnia. But

some winners get that impression. In 1973, Marlon Brando refused a best-

actor award for "The Godfather" and sent an activist for native Americans,

Sacheen Littlefeather, in his stead. Vanessa Redgrave mentioned "Zionist

hoodlums" in her remarks in 1978, and was booed for it (she won the best

supporting actress prize for "Julia").

-- Relax.

Just because there are a "thousand million people" watching is no reason

to be nervous, though nervousness might be the only natural response. Even

the best of 'em lose it. Meryl Streep dropped and briefly lost her copy of her

speech on stage in 1983 when she accepted the award for best actress for

"Sophie's Choice." And Geraldine Page couldn't find her shoes when her

name was called in 1986 for the best actress award for "The Trip to

Bountiful."

-- Don't Overdo It.

In an acceptance speech, as in a love letter, it's best to dial back a bit when

the feeling is especially strong. What might seem like an honest airing of

healthy emotion at the time often sounds out-of-control on rewind. Sally

Field's 1985 effusion is the gold standard of modern public embarrassment:

"I can't deny the fact that you like me right now, you like!" Second place

goes to Jack Palance for his one-armed push-ups in 1992.

Nervousness Can Cause Incoherence.

Even the sometimes lucid Jack Nicholson mystified everyone in 1984 with

his cryptic ramble upon winning the award for best supporting actor for

"Terms of Endearment." "I was going to talk a lot about how Shirley

[MacLaine] and Debra [Winger] inspired me, but I understand they're

planning an interpretive dance later, to explain everything about life," said

Nicholson, adding: "All you rock people down at the Roxy and up in the

Rockies, rock on." And Jodie Foster nearly missed coherence in 1989 with

"My mother...taught me...that cruelty might be very human and it might be

very cultural, but it's not very acceptable" (she won the best actress prize for

"The Accused").

-- Use the Phrase "Without Whom."

"Without whom" is the perfect poignant phrase for any winning Oscar

speech. Everyone's life includes a "without whom," so by all means mention

yours. When Steve Tesich won the prize for best original screenplay for

"Breaking Away" in 1980, he used two "without whoms" in the same speech.

In 1975, Carmine Coppola -- co-winner of the Oscar for his original score for

"The Godfather, Part II" and father of the film's director Francis Coppola --

offered a fresh spin by saying that without his son, "I wouldn't be here.

However, if I wasn't here, he wouldn't be here, either."


-- Get Grandiose (Pretend It's a Nobel).

It probably feels like a Nobel prize from the podium, so go with the

feeling. Marcel Ophuls did in 1989, when he said "There are whole

countries to thank." And Laurence Olivier's acceptance of an honorary prize

in 1979 sounded like this: "In the great firmament of your nation's

generosities, this particular choice may perhaps be found by future

generations as a trifle eccentric."


-- "You Know Who You Are."

The phrase "you know who you are" can save many minutes of speech

time. Anjelica Huston used this time-saver in her speech in 1986, thanking

"the entire cast and crew of 'Prizzi's Honor' -- I don't want to mention any

names; you know who you are." Warren Beatty should've used the phrase

when he named 14 names in 1982 and thanked "so many more."


-- Try True Wit (But Only as a Last Resort).

If the Oscar host can usually be consistently funny, why can't the winners

be, too? Some can. Dustin Hoffman, for instance, looked at his Oscar

statuette from the podium in 1980 and observed, "He has no genitalia, and

he's holding a sword." And Stirling Silliphant, winning the best adapted

screenplay award for 1968 for "In the Heat of the Night," said: "I really have

no speech. The Writers' Guild doesn't allow us to do any speculative

writing."


[From The New York Times, March 26, 1995.]
________________________________________________

BRIEF PROFILES OF VARIOUS CELEBRITIES


[PUBLISHED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE]

Dick Cavett, in the Mountains of Marin

By Paul Iorio


In the green mountains of Marin County, California, talk show pioneer

Dick Cavett is playing hooky from his day job as narrator of the upcoming

Broadway stage version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." "My

colleagues in 'Rocky' are sweating and laboring right now, and I'm supposed

to be there," he confides. "I feel like they're going to find where I'm hidden."

Cavett's hiding place, at least this afternoon, was Mill Valley, where he

was preparing to attend the Mill Valley Film Festival's tribute to him.

At 63, Cavett is still best-known for having brought witty, literate chat to

the airwaves with his ABC-TV talk show, "The Dick Cavett Show," which

aired from 1969 to 1973, and a PBS series, which ran from '77 to '82 -- shows

that regularly mixed artists and intellectuals with entertainers and politicians.

Today, Cavett doesn't host a TV series but is still infallibly witty and

spontaneous, able to come up with a funny joke at will. For

example, when a clerk from a rental car company interrupts us and asks to

see Cavett's driver's license, he quips: "Can't I just describe it? It's

rectangular..."

What does he think of the current cultural landscape? His favorite show is

NBC's "Law and Order." "The early years of 'Law and Order' were as good

as anything that's ever been on television -- and it took me so long to realize

it," says Cavett, wearing a "Twisted Tales" baseball cap (named after the

show about animals he currently narrates on the Animal Planet channel).

Of his own talk show career, Cavett says his best show was the one that

featured playwright Noel Coward and the legendary actors Alfred Lunt and

Lynn Fontanne. "Jack Paar called it 'the greatest ninety minutes I've ever

seen on television,'" he says. "In a way, it was as good as it can get...I was

better than I was on other nights."

His most famous program is probably the one in which novelists Norman

Mailer and Gore Vidal nearly came to blows on the air. In that show, Mailer

made a surly entrance, refused to shake Vidal's outstretched hand, and

proceeded to insult Cavett, Vidal and another guest, New Yorker magazine

writer Janet Flanner. "I said [to Mailer], 'Would you like another chair to

help contain your giant intellect?' And he said, 'I'll accept the chair if you'll all

accept a fingerbowl,'" he recalls. "Mailer didn't quite get what he meant out;

a re-write would've done it."

"Then [Mailer] said the thing that I didn't know till then would anger me

most: 'Why don't you just read the next question off the question sheet,''" he

says. Cavett's famous response was "Why don't you fold it five ways and put

it where the moon don't shine?"

When the Mailer show was aired in Germany, where Cavett has a sizable

audience, the translator had difficulty translating the retort. "They were

baffled," he says of the Germans. "'Something about a moon on a shining

stick.'"

Other noteworthy moments in Cavett's career include candid appearances

by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a show in which segregationist governor

Lester Maddox walked off in anger, and one in which publisher J.I. Rodale

died during a taping (after saying, "I expect to live on and on").

He says network executives never objected to the controversy his shows

generated. "I think they were kind of tickled by the publicity," he says.

Cavett's observations about his celebrity guests are always fresh. On

Andy Warhol: "He had two tape recorders on at dinner...He said, 'One is

recording the other.'" On Johnny Carson: "To me, he's still the guy who I

first saw do a magic trick in [a] church basement in Lincoln Nebraska, when

I was ten or twelve." He also recalls coming upon a dissipated Judy Garland

in the mid-Fifties and initially mistaking her for a cleaning woman.

The last ten years have not always been kind to Cavett. His three-million

dollar house in Montauk burned down a few years ago, and he has recently

suffered from clinical depression. But he does seem genuinely happy to be

performing in "Rocky Horror," though he jokes, "I thought I was going to be

the guy who wore women's underwear and garters and high heel," referring to

the role that Tim Curry played in the film.

He's also considering a return to his roots as a stand-up comic with some

sort of one-man show. "I probably will" return to stand-up, says Cavett.

"Even revisit my old act and comment on it...if I could remember my old act."

When I ask about his reaction to the countless Cavett wannabes and

imitators over the decades, he answers by recalling an exchange between

Cary Grant and a fan: "A fan said, 'I would give anything to be Cary Grant.'

And [Grant] said, 'So would I.'"

[From the San Francisco Chronicle, October 9, 2000; original manuscript.]

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[PUBLISHED IN SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE]

Edward Norton, After Hours

By Paul Iorio

Edward Norton has just finished a long day working with Brad Pitt on the

new David Fincher movie, "The Fight Club," and stops in at Red, a

West Hollywood restaurant, for a late night cup of tea with me. We take a

table in an outdoor cafe area but the lousy faux jazz-fusion blasting over the

speakers is too loud for conversation. Norton tries talking over it, but the

music is clearly getting on his nerves.

"Let me get them to turn this stupid music off," he says, slightly pissed and

standing up. He walks inside Red (this is the second time he's tried to get

them to turn it down). Through the window I can see him talk rather

intensely with someone. Suddenly the music quiets considerably.

It's as if Norton has briefly turned the restaurant into his own movie

set, even controlling the soundtrack. And it's this sense of control, of

dominating his environment -- whether giving a performance on

camera or an interview in a cafe -- that has become a Norton trademark.

Tonight, he's eager to talk about the movie that much of Hollywood

is talking about, the controversial "American History X," in which he stars as

a reformed neo-Nazi.

As Norton admits, the film is not everybody's cup of tea. It's a

full of graphic violence, tough dialogue and an unsympathetic central

character.

"The film is not an easy entertainment, that's not what it's [meant to

be]," says Norton, sipping tea. "It is not going to be an easy sit. It's

not sort of an escapist entertainment. But I think it's a film you'll still

be very much talking about over dinner two nights later."

Norton, 29, could've avoided controversy by choosing a safe surefire

studio blockbuster as his next project. One must remember how

recently The Edward Norton Phenomenon emerged. His career didn't evolve

gradually through years of work in bit parts and b-movies. His debut film,

"Primal Fear," was a big hit that earned him an Oscar nomination for best

supporting actor. In quick succession came the acclaimed "The People Vs.

Larry Flynt" and Woody Allen's musical-comedy "Everybody Says I Love

You."

But he says he acts partly because it's a way of not choosing to be just one

thing in life. "I've always had a hard time choosing between different

potential modes of existence, and acting is a really fun way of being an

experiential dilettante," he says. "You can dip for awhile into all

kinds of diverse realms of experience and expression and then

escape without any of the consequences of actually having chosen it

as a life. And I like that....It's like the way I might have been."

[From the San Francisco Chronicle, October 25, 1998.]

* * *

[PUBLISHED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE]

Anne Heche, Pioneer
[the first story anywhere to link Heche with DeGeneres]

By Paul Iorio

Ellen DeGeneres drives up to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills in a new

Porsche Carrera, gets out and smiles wide. And why shouldn't she smile?

She's on the cover of Time magazine this week and stars in the most talked-

about TV show on the air. But there's another reason for the big grin: she

spots a friend across the driveway.

Her friend, actress Anne Heche, looking glamorously lithe, waves and

walks over to her. Heche and DeGeneres hug and talk, all laughter, blonde


hair and charisma. As the spring sunlight comes through the trees at a late-

afternoon angle, Heche is full of motion and warmth, juggling conversations

with DeGeneres and a couple others.

Almost everything that makes Heche a compelling movie star is evident in

this moment with DeGeneres; Heche is impossible not to watch as she

energetically deals with several people at once, exuding a mixture of control

and affection.

Heche, 27, has the personality of someone who has had to fend for herself

from a very young age. And it comes across onscreen and off. For example,

in the film "Volcano" she's pushing a bus, dragging bodies from the path of a

lava flow, rescuing patients at a hospital and making suggestions to Tommy

Lee Jones's character. She seems hyper-competent.

So it's no surprise to discover that in real life Heche (rhymes with the letter

'h') actually did have to fend for herself from a very young age -- from the age

of 12, when her father found out he had AIDS.

She helped support her family by appearing in dinner theatre productions

in Ohio. "At twelve years old, I didn't understand that every kid didn't go out

and earn money for their family," she says, taking a cigarette from a hard

pack.

"My dad was a closet homosexual," she continues. "Because he wasn't

willing to admit to himself and others that he was that, he ended up

destroying himself."

When Heche talks about DeGeneres's coming-out on TV, her enthusiasm

is clearly informed by hard-earned wisdom. "It's incredibly brave," she says

of DeGeneres. "Ellen's a pioneer in this world where there's never been an

admittedly gay lead actor on television."


[From the San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 1997; original manuscript and updated]

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_____________________________________________________________

[PUBLISHED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE]

Remembering Jonathan Larson (and an Awful Phone Call)


Daphne Rubin-Vega, the actress who played Mimi in the original

production of Jonathan Larson's musical "Rent," remembers an awful phone

call.

"[Actress Idina Menzel] called and was really upset," she recalls. "And I

could tell by her voice something was wrong. Then she said, 'Jonathan.' And

I knew. I knew. You just know."

The news was that the thirty-five year old Larson had died suddenly and

unexpectedly of a ruptured aorta in his Greenwich Village apartment. It had

happened a couple hours after the final dress rehearsal for the workshop

production in 1996.

When she starts to talk about Larson's death, Rubin-Vega, normally

exuberant and feisty, becomes quiet, talks slowly, looks down at a fixed spot

on the floor and puts on a black jacket. When she zips up the jacket, she's

now completely dressed in black.

"[Cast members] walked to the New York Theatre Workshop

and...everyone cried," she recalls, referring to the hours after his death. "And

it wasn't just out of, how could this person who is always in your life and in

your face everyday all of a sudden be gone. But it was, like, what are we

gonna do about this show? It's not finished. It was, like, it's not done."

The cast quickly channeled its grief into making "Rent" one of the most

successful musicals in recent Broadway history. The show has gone on to

win Tony awards, Obie awards and the Pulitzer prize for drama, while its

soundtrack became the fastest-selling Broadway CD of the decade.

While grateful for "Rent"'s success, Rubin-Vega was also initially

ambivalent about all the attention. "After Jonathan died, [the curious] started


CONVERSATIONS -- CHAPTER SIX -- PAGE NINETY-EIGHT


to swarm, and it was sensationalized," she says. "This very organic high-

voltage thing became a sideshow attraction, a freak show."

Rubin-Vega, who joined the production in 1993, remembers "Rent"'s

evolution. She says the 1994 workshop version of the musical was very

different from both the 1996 New York Theatre Workshop production and

the show that exists today. "'Glory' was called 'Your Right Brain,'" she says.

"It was the same melody but it was another song and was about other

stuff...'Without You' was sung by the lesbians. 'Seasons of Love' was there.

'Rent' started the show but the actual songs were in different places. There

was so much editing going on. Songs were cut, verses were cut."

In her dressing room, she eagerly offers an example, belting out a playful

verse deleted from "Out Tonight": "You want to be an alley cat?/Well, let's

act like we've got nine lives/Let's cut off all our hair and wear ugly

glasses/You wanna act like a brat?/Pick up men who cheat on their

wives?/Let them spend like a millionaire/And leave them flat on their asses."

Sometimes it's hard to know whether she's primarily a singer or an actress.

If she had to choose only one career, which would it be?

"Don't ask me to choose," she says, and then turns the question on me. "If

you can only choose one testicle, which one would it be?"

"The right one, it's the one I like," I joke.

She laughs for a long time about that.

One thing's for certain: she has been heavily influenced by Larson. "I'd

go to his house and hang out and play music and pretend I was as prolific a

writer as he was at the time but actually have him help me bang out stuff...He

was always game to write and play."

But she's not satisfied with simply talking about Larson; she breaks into

song, reciting an original unrecorded lyric about him called "Graduation

Day": "If you were here today you would/Hear the sound of people shouting

for more/How can anybody say you're not around?"


[From the San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 1999; original manuscript and updated.]
___________________________________________
___________________________________________

[FROM THE S.F. CHRONICLE]

Carroll O'Connor's Blues

A Comic Genius Reflects on Tragedy

By Paul Iorio

When the grieving gets tough, the tough get...creative.

That could be Carroll O'Connor's credo these days. When his son Hugh

killed himself while on cocaine two years ago, O'Connor was devastated. But

he soon converted his mourning to energy, bounding back with a fireball of

anti-drug activism. Now he has emerged with a haunting play, "A Certain

Labor Day," which will make its premiere in San Francisco.

O'Connor is the author and star of the two-act play; he appears as a

washed-up labor leader whose younger son has a problem with booze. And,

yes, he freely admits his real-life son was the model for the alcoholic

character.

"If my son had not killed himself, I would have asked him to play the part

of Tony," O'Connor says, his eyes reddening and filling with tears.

He pauses, stares downward and shakes his head: "He was an addict, he was

an addict." He drifts briefly into fond remembrance: "He was a lovely

character, Hugh was. There wasn't a mean bone in his body."

In the play, the anguish does sometimes seem autobiographical. At one

point, O'Connor's character is desperate as he talks about his son: "Help me!

How do I reach this beautiful kid of mine? Why is he lost?...Why am I in hell

before I'm dead?"

O'Connor sips ice water on this Saturday evening in a Westwood church

where he's rehearsing the drama. "A play should center on a crisis," he says.

"If the crisis overcomes the people, it's a tragedy. If the people overcome the

crisis, it's either a melodrama or a comedy."

George C. Scott was originally set to co-star, but dropped out because he

needs "a little aorta operation," says O'Connor.

O'Connor plays Gerry Maher, a relic of post-war American liberalism, a

sort of politicized Willy Loman, who is "living helplessly in a mean time [of]

no ideals, no ethical guidance, just strategies for personal glory."

That also happens to be O'Connor's own view of the 1990s. "But that

doesn't make me a doomsayer," he says. "Because I've lived long enough

now at the age of 73 to see the country take several changes. I'm old enough

to [have] listened to people say, 'the country is ruined.' Then it turns out not

to be ruined."

He is similar to his character in some ways. Both are politically liberal.

Both have no patience with racism or anti-Semitism. Both are in their

seventies. And both are solid supporters of unions. "The first union I ever

joined was at 17-years old," he says proudly, quickly naming eight others he

has joined since.

Personally, O'Connor comes off kind of like a liberal trapped in the body of

a conservative, with a lifestyle that seems almost old-fashioned in contrast to

his politics. Unlike others in show business, he's been married to the same

woman, college sweetheart Nancy Fields, for 46 years; and it's obvious

they're still in love with each other.

He hates drug use. He dislikes pretension. He's fond of straight talk. His

jokes are funny but they're not really jokes; they're sharp insights. He is by

turns outspoken, passionate, persuasive, and lots of fun -- a natural populist.

Truly, success has not gone to his head or even near it.

O'Connor's roots are in the theater, even if his success has been mostly on

the small screen (with TV's "All in the Family" and "In the Heat of the

Night"). He appeared in his first play around 50-years ago, at his alma mater,

the University of Montana. In the early Fifties, he moved to Ireland and

performed in much of western Europe. Among other things, his experience

abroad mercifully allowed him to miss the worst of Joe McCarthy's red-

baiting in the U.S. "I went to Ireland in 1950 and didn't come back till

'54," he says. "I was lucky. I was away in those years when they were

hunting [leftists]."

When he returned to New York, he found occasional work as an actor in

the theater and later in movies (most notably as a doomed gangster in the '67

cult film "Point Blank," a trucker in '62's "Lonely Are The Brave," and as

Casca in the '63 re-make of "Cleopatra").

Broadway has never been hospitable to him. "I've been a flop on

Broadway twice," he says. "Once in '83 with 'Brothers' [which he directed]

and 'Homefront' in '84. So, I'm not crazy mad to run back to Broadway."

O'Connor sees "All in the Family," the blockbuster TV show in which he

played the bigoted Archie Bunker, as a series of one-act plays produced

weekly for thirteen years.

"I always thought we were doing these little plays on 'All in the Family,'"

he says, adding candidly: "I take credit for being the one who was driving

every week towards a little play....I don't say that everybody else was going

another way. But I was the principal. We used to sit around the table and I


_____________________


PAUL IORIO
2923 Florence St.
Apartment 206
Berkeley, California 94705
Tel.: 510-204-9417 -- Email: pliorio@aol.com


EXPERIENCE

REUTERS, PEOPLE MAGAZINE, OTHER PUBLICATIONS -- N.Y., L.A., S.F.
Freelance Writer/Reporter
January 1988 to present (see specific dates for each publication)

Wrote several chapters of a book-length biography of comedian Richard Pryor for literary agent Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Agency (2005). Contributed reporting to People magazine (issue of Feb. 7, 2005). Wrote and reported stories (9/04 to present) that are current being readied or developed for other publications, including an investigation of Muslim militant Internet messages posted before the 9/11 attacks that suggest others had foreknowledge of the attacks (both the JTFF and the FBI have taken my findings serously enough to have carried out their own investigations based on my findings).

Wrote and reported feature story for the Cox newspaper syndicate (7/18/04); it was
originally published in The Austin American-Statesman and was picked up by Cox. Wrote and reported feature story for New Times (December 2003, for the Miami paper). Wrote, reported and researched exclusive music news story for Reuters's Los Angeles bureau (April to June 2003). Wrote a television feature involving extensive Internet research for The Toronto Star's Arts & Entertainment section (1/03); it is the only story anywhere to have covered the immediate television coverage of the first two plane crashes on 9/11. Wrote non-fiction book, "Conversations with Reclusive Geniuses (and Other Stories)," from January to September 2003 (still in development).

Wrote, reported, researched and initiated feature stories for The Washington Post's Travel section, including story involving foreign reporting (2000 to 2003). Contributed seven original photographs and design ideas for Post articles. All story ideas, usually mixing pop culture and travel, came from me. Some pieces still circulate years later on private and academic websites.

Wrote and reported features and news stories, mostly on television and movies, for The San Francisco Chronicle (3/97 to 6/00); initiated story and production ideas and
contributed photography. Reported news for L.A. bureau of the Reuters News Service,
covering criminal and civil trials of public figures such as O.J. Simpson and Pamela
Anderson. [Please note that I've always both written and reported my stories; the only exception was at Reuters from '97 to '99, where I only reported and co-wrote the stories.]

Covered the movie industry's main Oscar night parties first-hand ('99 and '00, for The S.F. Chronicle). Was the first reporter anywhere to link Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche in print(4/97, The Chronicle). Contributed photography to The Chronicle and initiated many story ideas (such as designing a movie board game for the newspaper). Contributed interviews with celebrities like Woody Allen who do not regularly talk to the press.



Resume, page 2 of 3

For The Los Angeles Times, I wrote, reported and initiated four entertainment features (1/3/98, 9/1/98, 7/8/99, all on the front page of a section), the latter generating more reader response than any story that had run in the Weekend section; another article was carried nationwide the The L.A. Times's wire service. Through my own connections, I was able to land a rare interview with film director Roman Polanski for The L.A. Times (1999), resulting in a popular two-part article on the film Chinatown.

Wrote and reported articles on movies directly for The New York Times's Arts & Leisure section (1/95 to 4/95; and 6/94); one story was subsequently syndicated nationwide in numerous major papers, another article republished in German newsweekly Die Woche. All stories initiated by me. Wrote and reported article on movies for The Washington Post (10/94), for which I interviewed surgeons and other medical professionals. Wrote cover story for L.A. New Times (7/96 - 10/96), featuring a rare, if brief, interview with comedian Richard Pryor. Penned satire for Details magazine (10/94).

In June 1996, I relocated to Los Angeles after living in and around Manhattan for 17
years.

Wrote articles for both the old and new Spy magazine on movies, pop music and politics, including satiric and investigative pieces (I was on contract for Spy from 10/88 to 3/89; 6/91 to 8/91; 8/92 to 10/92; 9/93 to 12/93; 8/94 to 2/95). I exposed university presidents selling academic and honorary degrees; created the popular Dylan-o-Matic (by which people can write their own Bob Dylan lyrics); investigated civil court documents.

Also wrote stories on film for New York Newsday (1/93; 2/92 to 3/92; 7/92 to 8/92; 7/92 to 8/92). Scripted music news for Tel-Star TV, a syndicated music video television series (Fall seasons of '89 and '90). Contributed music reviews and features to The Street magazine (3/89 to 3/90). Wrote news story for The Village Voice (2/88) and features for Hits magazine.

THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (S.F.)
Staff Writer and Reporter
May 2000 to January 2001
Wrote, reported and initiated features and news stories on television and movies, as well as on books, pop culture and the theater, usually under tight deadlines. Conducted daily interviews with entertainment and other public figures. Reported breaking news. Was one of the first writers anywhere to have proposed a story about the CBS blockbuster C.S.I. before the series aired (an editor vetoed the idea). My published interview with poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti revealed new details about the Beat literary movement (10/00; story still widely circulated on the Internet). Covered the television critics "tour" of new programs in Pasadena (7/00). I had a zero percent correction rate during my four years at The Chronicle.

Resume, page 3 of 3

EAST COAST ROCKER NEWSPAPER (N.Y.)
Staff Writer/Reporter
August 1987 to January 1990
Wrote weekly news, features and essays on pop music and the entertainment industry for Arts Weekly's two publications: The East Coast Rocker and Downtown. Was the first to write about several unsigned acts that later became successful (like rock band Phish).

CASH BOX MAGAZINE (N.Y.)
Staff Writer/Reporter
August 1985 to August 1987
Wrote and reported news, features and a weekly column on pop music and the
entertainment business, with emphasis on emerging music acts. Was first reporter at any trade publication to write about unsigned performers who later became successful (such as They Might Be Giants and Michelle Shocked) and wrote the first pieces anywhere on such hit albums as Paul Simon's Graceland and The Smithereens Especially for You.

MERRILL LYNCH & CO. (N.Y.)
Corporate Communications Writer
Sept. 1984 to July 1985
Wrote and researched articles for home office house organs and newsletters at the firm's international headquarters. Contributed photography to ML publications. Started at ML in Business Planning Dept. (1/82 to 8/84), with various responsibilities until I was promoted to writer. During this period, also wrote satire for New York's East Village Eye newspaper ('81 to '84) and The Aquarian Weekly ('82).

DELL PUBLISHING CO. (N.Y.)
Delacorte Publicity Dept. -- 8/79 to 10/81
Assistant position also involved writing press releases, book synopses and author bios. Job became full-time in final year, was temporary/part-time in first year.

THE TAMPA TRIBUNE (FL)
Editorial Assistant -- 1/79 to 6/79
Assistant spot also involved compilation and minor editing of news briefs.

EDUCATION

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, Gainesville
B.A., philosophy, high honors, 1979.
Participated in creative writing program ('76 to '78), studying under novelists such as Harry Crews, while producing short stories. Studied art history in Florence, Italy, for six months in 1976; visited eleven countries, including Iron Curtain nations Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, traveling alone by local train from Florence to Istanbul.
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