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The Last Post-Hiroshima Romance
© Tim Gooding
To the songwriters
VELVET is twisted in her seat, collapsed against the jukebox. Clad in WW2 vintage flying gear: leather jacket, flying cap, blue scarf. Large headphones plugged into the Rock-Ola.
PAGLIACCI, in flying gear, white scarf, lies centrestage. Clown face makeup. He clutches a small transistor radio.
ANGEL SUGAR, pilot, slumps in another seat. White scarf. Painted nails and face, large diamond ring. Car-seat radio beside her.
JET: (sings) “Mr Moonlight!” Tailgunner to Mr Moonlight. (sings) “Mr Moonlight, come again please..” Tailgunner to Mr Moonlight. (sings) “Here I am on my knees, begging if you please...”Jet de Luxe to Golden Oldie. Come again please. Are you there? (sings) “I-I think you’re fine, ‘cause we love you, Mr Moonlight..” I just want you to know that I think you’re fine. I still have every one of your records. I know all of your songs off by heart. I remember that before the war, your favourite colour was silvery, but now it’s blue..
(sings) “Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone. ”Dark night tonight. Dying moon. Near the final phase and tailgunner’s delight: bomber’s moon. Bomber’s moon is no moon at all. In my father’s day..when I was born..last day of my father’s day..
He stumbles into a “Shadows” style dance step.
JET: Gonna be cold. Cold as ice on the moon. I’m a-coming, mama. Five seconds away. Can’t you hear me knocking? I can see the others, thousands of them, already there, sitting under yellow lamps beside the road. It’s windy. One silver airship still burning. Another. Tail poking through a rooftop. Wizard show. Another burnt-out kite in a back yard. I can see them all, nosed into every yard, slammed behind every street lamp. And the boys and girls out front, all of them, sitting with their scarves all blowing in one direction, down the street.
Upstage: VELVET, a shadowy figure, rises and makes a jukebox selection: “Mr Moonlight” plays softly under the following sequence, as VELVET leans on the jukebox.
And JET looks to the moon.
JET: The Final Number is called The White Scarf Tail Gunner’s Blues. Where it all began..and where it all ends. The night was clear, and the moon was yellow, and the leaves came tumbling down. High noon, low tide, claire de lune and let it ride: first chorus of the White Scarf Tail Gunner’s Blues.
He leaps into action, movements bearing the imprint of famous rock ‘n’ rollers. He runs upstage, leaps onto the jukebox, gives Little Richard’s 2-handed V-Victory sign.
JET: Are you ready? Are you ready? For I am the only thing left! I am the sole survivor. Everybody get in the groove and don’t move, don’t be no fool, let’s go by the golden rule, and let’s go! I said, everybody get with it and let’s go! We gotta go! We gotta go!
He jumps down, stomps an outstretched leg: Jaggeresque.
JET: The very pulse of life itself.
He pounds the jukebox, Jerry Lee Lewis piano style.
JET: You cannot catch old Jet de Luxe. You can’t catch me, ‘cause if you get too close, you know I’m gone like a cooool breeze. Jet de Luxe. By Healing Music out of Enola Gay.
He crouches, launches into a Chuck Berry duck-walk.
JET: Do you remember Enola Gay? Sweet little Enola Gay? And a summer night? A hot August night.
(sings) “You came to me, one summer’s night..”
The beginning, bomber’s moon, and the islands of Nippon slippin’ and a-slidin’ beneath Enola’s wings.
“You came to me, one summer’s night
And from your beam you made my dream
And now she is mine..”
Remember Enola and that summer night? Where it all began, the original thing. Sh-boom, sh-boom. Roll over Hiroshima and tell Nagasaki the news. Rock-Ola Enola, talk to me baby, all right mama, ok sugar, mm mmmm..
Walking along, singing a song,
Born in the year they dropped the bomb.
And Bertrand Russell sang the blues,
Too pooped to pop, but he knew the tune.
The tarmac lights extinguish. A single overhead light flickers on. And JET is under a street lamp.
VELVET, ANGEL, PAGLIACCI hum “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” as JET delivers a deep, heartfelt Elvis-like monologue.
JET: Where it all ends. The final number. You know honey, someone once said, “Either be hot or be cold, for if you are lukewarm, the Lord will spew you out of his mouth”. And I looked deep into my heart and I asked myself, “Have my best days gone?” Truthfully, I have to answer yes. Like a patch-eye gull, only catch half your fish, like a three leg dog, still walk along the railroad track, like if you find your sweetheart in the arms of your best friend..oh honey, it’s like there are just too many reminders littering up your beach. “For you see there comes a time when all your dreams, all your dreams of a lifetime, must come to an end.” And you lie awake at night, and ask yourself “What happens next?” When you’ve struck your solid gold, when you’ve hit your highest note, when you’ve peaked, what happens next? What about the fifty years before you die?
The humming cuts.
JET: Too many reminders on the beach, honey. Look out the window at the littered sand. Singing one song. Now sing it again. Pagliacci was a clown but he cried in his tent.
PAGLIACCI: Trannies and Nationals
Radiolas and mantles
JET: Singing one song. Now sing it again. Angel Sugar had the devil in her heart. She was an angel sent to me.
ANGEL: Andres and Bloodhouse
Jet Bar Tabou
Cheetah and SkyLounge
Chequers El Rocco
JET: Singing one song. Now sing it again. Velvet was blue.
VELVET: Decca and Parlophone
Coral and Zonophone
Tamla and Polydor
JET: EP, LP, 45 and 33. Singing one song. Now sing it again. Honey there is only one thing left for you to do. You gotta take that love that can’t be shared, those guns that you fired all at once, that song that just can’t linger on, and you just gotta walk right out and fetch Pagliacci from his tent, and Angel Sugar from the bar, and Velvet from her lonely room..
VELVET, ANGEL, PAGLIACCI form a ghostly backing group behind JET. A spooky gathering of finger-popping, hand-jiving, doo-wopping shadows.
JET: ..and the Leader from his Pack and Sweet Little Sixteen, back in school again, and the baby from the bright lights big city which went to her head, all of the singers and swingers, the speeders and solid senders, the moonlight gamblers and midnight ramblers, the puppy lovers and clowns, the pickers and gunners, and you go across the railroad and fetch the ones born on the wrong side of the tracks, and down in the boondocks, until you have them all, all the sons and daughters of Enola Gay, who once danced to the Healing Music, and you pack up all the reminders, turn around, walk slowly into the hangar, and climb into your black bomber plane. And as you turn the music way up high, you look over your shoulder and say:
“If you ever think about me
If I ever cross your mind
You know, you know I’m yours
I, I know, I know you’re mine”
And you fly down the runway and rip it up. And realising what you’ve done, you say “Baby forgive me, I’m sorry”. And with her last dying breath the music looks up at you and says:
ALL: (sing) “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo..”
JET: And you know it’s gonna be all right.
ALL: (sing) “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo..”
JET: Drifting across the darkened paddock on the edge of town, in the kerosene glow of Pagliacci’s tent, alone and empty because the circus has moved on:
ALL: (sing) “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo..”
PAGLIACCI: (sings) “Tra la la la la la li lo..”
JET: And in Sugar’s last whisky bar where the waiters have wiped the spills and ash and all gone home, to the slow rhythm of the fan which turns all through the night:
ANGEL: (sings) “Sha la la la la la la..”
JET: And in Velvet’s lonely room:
VELVET: (sings) “Ooobie doobie doobie doo..”
JET: You know it’s gonna be all right! You’ve left the final reminder, honey, and that can never die. Down the hallway, down the road, everywhere, dimly, the music sings. A stranger like a shadow, with a transistor in his hand and a shiver down his spine. He holds it to his ear and he can hear the city roar. Out of Enola Gay came The Bomb, and out of The Bomb came the Stranger like a Shadow, and out of the Stranger like a Shadow came the Healing Music, and oh how we danced. The Healing Music! Makes the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame and the dumb to walk and talk!
JET shudders: a pulse running through his body.
JET: Bbrrrr! The Stranger, he walks on my grave!
Well I looked at my watch and you know what it said?
When I finish this number Jet de Luxe will be dead!
Ssshh. Little bit quieter now, little bit softer now..
PAGLIACCI: Right now, my mother is reading the words of farewell scrawled in grease paint across the makeup mirror. All I wrote was:
“Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue
It isn’t very hard to do..”
But she doesn’t understand and her tears fall softly into my pot of rouge.
But he still thinks he’ll serve me after closing..
VELVET: And mum unpins the note on my pillow while dad puts his arm round my little sister and the girls cry softly as dad holds them close and the scent of lavender from the old-fashioned notepaper drifts between them and reminds them of Velvet and the words she wrote:
When the song becomes a sigh
Forevermore becomes goodbye
But you’ll remain in my heart..”
JET: Well I looked at my watch, and it was after the ball
But if you never have risen you never can fall
I didn’t leave a note of farewell but I have kept one ring on my finger, a ring of solid gold with my favourite inscription: “Just Because”. And maybe they will inscribe it on my gravestone and place the ring under a little glass dome, in flowers, then shrug their shoulders and say: “Goes to show you never can tell.” Once I said you can’t catch me, but something did, and it would not let go. The Stranger like a shadow, he walks over my grave. Transistor to his ear, he can hear the city roar.
Tarmac lights reappear.
SFX: Aircraft engines, rising in volume.
A pulse runs up the tarmac as if something, or many somethings, are taking off and flying overhead.
The pulse speeds up.
A call and response which rises to crescendo.
JET races down the tarmac, drops to his knees and slides, sax to mouth.
SFX: Aircraft scream
As he plays a wild sax solo.
Sometime in the not-so-distant past..
VELVET, melancholy baby, leans on the jukebox.
ANGEL sits, touching up makeup, car-seat radio by her.
PAGLIACCI lies downstage, transistor radio to his ear, surfie kitbag nearby.
JET sits under the mantle radio. Wearing the ten golden rings.
ANGEL: Sometimes I wish I was Bobby’s Girl. Dig this. I’m parked in a gin house run by a fat bald daddy-O with a scone like a blistered beach ball who calls himself Papa. Papa Oo Mau Mau. Jesus. He’s a hip fat man. He’s Mr obese Man. Meanwhile some no-talent bum on the jukebox is yodelling “Why Why Why Delilah?” and I’m muttering “Run Samson Run”. (sings) “I’d sooner trust a hungry lion than a gal with a cheatin’ heart..”
Too right. And this Bandstand refugee is backed by the usual quartet of creeps in the usual Prince Valiant haircuts and the usual pastel bodyshirts clashing with the usual primary coloured acne as they sing in the usual K Blunt Minor key. And right about the usual time, the drunkest and creepiest Prince Valiant slithers over and asks can he buy me the usual drink, to which I respond with the usual “Drop off, Junior”, or words to that usual effect, so he slopes off back to the usual mates with the usual summing up of his predicament: “She’s up herself. I reckon she must be frigid or something”. Then along comes Velvet. Like a Mouseketeer among Hell’s Angels. Like, hi, Toots, pull up a pew.
VELVET: Hi. I’m Velvet.
ANGEL: (as Mouseketeer) Hi! I’m Angel Sugar! Can you do the mashed potato?
ANGEL: No. Right, little sister, hi fi your history. Like, what’s a nice girl like yousville?
VELVET: Are you a widgie?
ANGEL: Got it. On occasion. I am sporting my widgie face tonight. Dragged it screaming out of the medicine cabinet. Dig the beehive, honey.
VELVET: Yeah. Neat.
ANGEL: Neat? Flip, baby., Flip. Vintage? Model and year.
VELVET: 1950. Twenty seven big ones.
ANGEL: A nymphette yet. I remember twenty seven. Sailor Sam? You got a man?
VELVET: No. Got the blues.
ANGEL: You sure you can’t do the mashed potato?
ANGEL: Yeah? Honeychile, you in big trouble. Drink this.
VELVET: (drinks) Oh, yeah! Oooweeee!
ANGEL: Ooo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang. (drinks) Da doo ron ron, Da doo ron ron. Let me tell you about –
VELVET: Ooo poo pah doo?
ANGEL: Doo bah bah barp.
VELVET: (sings) “Oh doo bop she dum dum.” Watusi?
ANGEL: Like little Lucy.
(sings) “Na, na na na na, na na na na,
na na na na na na.” Watch me now!
VELVET: (sings) “Oobie doobie doobie doo.”
ANGEL: (sings) “Oobie doobie doobie doo.”
VELVET: Oobie doobie doobie, doobie doo doo.
ANGEL: Doobie doo doo.
VELVET: Doo doo.
ANGEL: Doobie doo.
VELVET: Doobie doo.
ANGEL: Flam! The lang-a-widge of love. Wham-bam thankyou ma’am, skin me daddy-O, fab fab fab, do you go all the way?, I’m in with the In Crowd, zip-ah-dee-doo-dah, zip-ah-dee-ay, see the girl with the red dress on, a Purple Heart and she’s gone gone gone, and will you still love me tomorrow?
VELVET: Peachy-keen and neat-O, Jet, so far out I think you’re groovy, bamalamaloo wanna catch a movie?, hop in my car I think you’re fine, bye bye baby, you’re out of time, dance dance dance and fun fun fun, I just wanna make love on the run.
ANGEL: The Saturday night swindle. Oo oobley oo.
VELVET: I don’t suppose you can fly a plane?
Cross fade to PAGLIACCI, on the beach.
PAGLIACCI: Ah, you’ve still got it, Pagliacci, you’ve still got it. Now, where are the wahines? Wendy? You little bombora you. Wanda? I want ya. Stompie Wompie sugar pie? Hey beach bunny, check this! You’ll pop your itsy bitsies!
He runs to the edge of the stage.
PAGLIACCI: Toes upon the nose! Hangin’ ten! Hawaiian Delight! Pinky Zinky! Hahahaha – wipeout!
PAGLIACCI: Midget, Midget, it’s me, Gidget. I mean, Gidget, Gidget, it’s me, Midget. Midget Pagliacci, King of the Curl. Curly Pagliacci, Curl Of the Kiss. Remember walking in the sand? Remember walking hand in hand? Hey hey hey hey, you were my little gasarooney. Rhonda? Help me, Rhonda! Surf’s up, Buttercup. Wake up, Australia!
He trips, pretends to loll on the sand.
PAGLIACCI: Gee I feel King. Isn’t the sun nervous and the Pipeline gas? I want to thank you for giving me the grousest summer. I’m a new man, ba ba ba, ba Barbara Ann. After that bully kicked sand in my face and you laughed at me, I filled out one of those “Hey, Skinny! Who, me?” ads on the back of a comic book and now I to have a body fit to stuff in leopardskin Speedos.
He resumes The Stomp.
PAGLIACCI: Proxie Locks? Honolulu Lulu? Bondi Barbie Doll? You broke my heart ‘cause I couldn’t dance. You didn’t even want me around. But now I’m back to let you know I can really shake ‘em down. Dead set. Dead set. Flannelette.
PAGLIACCI: Midget, you’ve gotten as fat as Elvis.
He sits, shivers with cold.
PAGLIACCI: I wish I’d brought my duffle coat.
Cross fade to VELVET and ANGEL:
VELVET – in tears - wipes the jukebox glass with a handkerchief.
VELVET: Woops, there goes a teardrop rollin’ down my face. Sorry Moon Man. Guess I’m not the first. Or is that you? It is you. Crazy. Rock-Ola sweetie, we’ve gotta get ourselves together. Where are they, for heaven’s sake?
ANGEL: By the way, where’d you meet him?
VELVET: I met him in a bus depot. In the waiting room. He turned around and looked at me.
ANGEL: I get the picture.
VELVET: A bus depot waiting room. After that, a railway station waiting room. Airport arrivals lounge. Crater beside a rocket base on the moon. Bench seat in the middle of nowhere..
ANGEL: I get the picture.
VELVET: I do waiting. He does paranoia.
ANGEL: I get the picture.
VELVET: He writes tormented letters instead of turning up.
She withdraws a collection of letters, tied in blue ribbon, from her pocket.
VELVET: Which fall apart in my hands as I cry over them. Lord, I hope I don’t cry this time. Lord, just let me do it right once.
She opens a letter. Reads.
VELVET: “Dearest, crunch, darling, crunch, I had to write to say that I won’t be home any more. ‘Cause something happened, crunch, to me, crunch, while I was driving home and I’m not the same any more. I was only 24 hours from Tulsa..”
VELVET shows the letter. ANGEL reads.
ANGEL: “Only one day away from your arms..” Oh, kill me with a biro, baby!
VELVET: “One day away from my arms.” What about the rest of me? He repeats it four times. To make sue I get the message. Once would have been enough.
ANGEL: It’s a tad obsessive.
VELVET: Ha! Jet de Luxe has been the Guinness Book’s Chart-Topping Obsessive Of Our Time every year since he first heard Gene Vincent’s anguish pouring out of a next door neighbour’s window. “She took me to the café, I asked her if she would stay, she said” – wait for it – “ok”. OK? I’m given the flick for an OK? Café. Would stay. OK. “The juke box started to play..” Traitor! “Nightime turned into day..”
Sipping café au lait
I say “You’ll stay?
Don’t worry, I’ll pay
She say “OK”
Goodbye old lay
Ole new lay.
Cross fade to PAGLIACCI. He joins JET.
PAGLIACCI: The clock on the clubhouse wall says it’s time to go, clap clap.
JET is startled from his reverie.
PAGLIACCI: Nervous, Norvus?
JET: I thought you were someone else.
PAGLIACCI: I am. I rediscovered my identity. It was in my kitbag all the time. In an old bottle of peroxide.
JET: So, you’re ready, ready teddy?
PAGLIACCI: Dead set and go man go.
JET: No regrets?
PAGLIACCI: No. Yes. I reckon. I had to return the clown costume after my last shift in the Crazy House. The Boss didn’t say anything. He’s crazy. Mum cried. She’d been to the Mechanical Gypsy in the Penny Arcade. It was written on the little card. “Let’s all drink to the death of a clown.” She drank all afternoon. Her beard was dripping.
JET: Your mother has a beard now.
PAGLIACCI: New contract. Klondike Rhonda. Just in winter. In spring she shaves half off for a stint as The Incredible Half Man Half Woman – hermaphrodites go down better in springtime – and in summer she shaves it all off for a run as the Remington-smooth Spider Woman. Autumn is growing season. She runs the Knock-Em-Downs with Colin The Strongman.
JET: I have deep deep respect for your mum.
PAGLIACCI: Reckon. She understands, you know? Sort of. You know her tattoos?
JET: Some of them.
PAGLIACCI: She had them done when she was seventeen. Ran away to work the sideshows. When I left she said “Make-a the bigga noise, Pagliacci.” So we’d better. You missed the show this year.
JET: I went. Stayed five minutes. Saw the saddest thing, clown. I walk right in, and Rinky Dink is going round in my head so I beeline the Razzle Dazzle and it’s where it always is, going round and round, razzle dazzle and rinky dinking its little heart out, while a dozen rockers and their pillion birds scrum nearby in dirty leather and turquoise and aqua stretch slacks. Rockers.
PAGLIACCI: Real ones?
JET: Real rockers. The authentic article. Greasy black quiffs peaking off moontanned skulls. They look a little old, not as foul and pasty as they once were, but they still snigger as one, and I do feel menaced. Mums and dads still hurry their kids past. One daddy, wearing thongs, eying the pack, treads in a hot pie. I laugh.
PAGLIACCI: Yeah! Wow! And?
JET: The rockers form a wedge and slope towards the ticket booth.
PAGLIACCI: oh oh. OH OH!
JET: There is tension. I feel it.
PAGLIACCI: I feel it too!
JET: I expect the attendant to wet her tent. Or abandon booth completely and hole up in the Ghost Train. You know what the rockers do?
PAGLIACCI: What? What?
JET: They form a queue.
PAGLIACCI: They form a queue?
JET: And buy their tickets.
PAGLIACCI: They buy their tickets?
JET: The colour drains from my cheeks. Dread rises in my gut, clown.
PAGLIACCI: Dead set.
JET: Dead set.
PAGLIACCI: I’m getting all misty. Look. Tears.
JET: You know what they do next? Those goddam rockers, they stroll to the razzle dazzle, little tickets in their little hands..and they wait for it to stop!
PAGLIACCI: Oh. My. God. They wait for it to stop?
JET: Rockers! Waiting for the ride to stop! I wish it never had stopped. Because then they all hop lightly on the old horses, smiling, boys helping girls, and go sadly round and round, sadly up and down, hanging on, saying nothing. One has a kid, about four or five, and the kid wants to ride by himself, but dad, old rocker dad, he puts the kid on the saddle in front of him, puts his arms around the poor little guy, and holds the reins himself. And that little boy doesn’t dare look out out, he just stares at his reflection in the mirrors round the hub of the razzle dazzle, stares at his father going up and down on a stupid three-legged horse, smiling like a loon. Old rockers. At age four, the kid knows they are ridiculous.
Back to VELVET and ANGEL.
VELVET: (reads) “As we were dancing, crunch, closely, crunch, all of a sudden I lost control as I held her charms.” Held her what?
ANGEL: Charms. Charms and arms.
VELVET: Baby can I hold your charms?
ANGEL: Maybe he held them at arms length.
VELVET: Chicks have charms, chaps have charm. Gene Pitney said that.
ANGEL: If he didn’t, he should have.
VELVET: “I hate to do this to you, but I found somebody new. What can I do?”
ANGEL: I dunno, honey. What can you do?
VELVET: “And I can never, never, never, go home again. Awooo.” Sounds final, doesn’t it?
ANGEL: Three nevers should do it.
VELVET: So why in hell am I here, waiting, again?
ANGEL: Stupid Cupid.
VELVET: Stop picking on me.
Back to JET and PAGLIACCI.
JET: Pagliacci. (re mantle radio) Meet the old bakelite lounge lizard, valve-powered one time friend of my father, the SkyRaider. Veteran of the Jungle music Wars. Been very loud in his time.
PAGLIACCI: I brought the Big Noise from Radio Beach. Thought it might attract a little wahine along for the ride. Toujours l’amour and tutti frutti, je desire une dungaree cutie! Left my run a little late, I reckon.
JET: You reckon?
PAGLIACCI: I reckon, therefore I am.
JET: Hit the road?
PAGLIACCI: I reckon.
JET: Last chance to turn around.
PAGLIACCI: Let’s get it bloody over with. I refuse to feel guilty for eating chiko rolls any more! Don’t let this smile fool you. I have a serious side. It’s in my kitbag too. It’s screwing my identity in there.
JET: I’ve invited a couple of chickybabes along.
PAGLIACCI: Dead set?
JET: Dead set.
PAGLIACCI: Dead set?
JET: Dead set.
PAGLIACCI: Dead set.
JET: How does that grab you?
PAGLIACCI: Ca va, ca va, whatever that means
Cherchez la femme in dungaree jeans
Who? Who? Who? Who?
PAGLIACCI: I remember Velvet. You and her – sorry, none of my business.
JET: And a fox name of Angel Sugar. She’ll be flying the plane.
PALIACI: I wondered who was going to do that. Angel Sugar. Mmm. Sounds sweet.
JET: She’s from deep down there in the city lights.
PAGLIACCI: Never met her at Surf City.
JET: Not her style. She wears knickers.
PAGLIACCI: I’ll take the mirrors off my thongs, eh?
JET: Let’s go.
PAGLIACCI: Angel Angel Bo-Bangel
Banana Pana Po-Pangel
Fi Fi Fo Mangel
JET: Let’s GO!
JET: Let’s GO!
The V-formation moves downstage to the finger-snapping rhythm. West Side Story on wheels..
ANGEL: Red dress.
JET: Green light.
VELVET: Blue Moon.
PAGLIACCCI: All right!
ANGEL: Cheatin’ heart.
JET: Big beat.
VELVET: Sweet thing,
PAGLIACCI: Reet petite!
ANGEL: Times up!
JET: Take off!
VELVET: Flags down!
PAGLIACCI: Hang on!
The finger-snapping cuts.
SXX: Low airplane engine roar.
PAGLIACCI whistles “The Dambusters March” while acting as tarmac batman, guiding the takeoff.
JET: My father would have loved this. When I was little he’d come home on leave and sit in the back yard, in full uniform, fanning himself with a ration card. He missed the war. The rear turret was his back yard. He could see in the dark.
The formation turns and moves slowly upstage.
ANGEL: Captain to crew. Welcome aboard The Daughter Of Enola Gay.
PAGLIACCI: (sings) “Bye bye love.”
VELVET: (sings) “Forevermore, you’ll remain in my heart..”
JET: (sings) “Goodnight. Everybody. Everywhere.”
ANGEL: (sings) “See you later, alligator.”
Lights and sound climax. And cut. And they’re gone.
PAGLIACCI’S LAST NUMBER
Upstage, dimly, the flying formation: ANGEL, pilot; VELVET, jukebox/radio operator; PAGLIACCI, bombardier, prone on the floor. Still, ghostly figures. JET’S seat is vacant.
Downstage: JET appears, staggering, as in Scene 1. A continuation.
JET: I’m so glad to see so many of my beautiful friends here tonight, singin’ and dancin’ and carryin’ on. We’re having a ball and that ain’t all, spendin’ our cash and talkin’ a whole lotta trash right here in our brand new airmobile, flyin’ high over the Pacific Ocean, haulin’ a bellyful of bombs and puttin’ shadows on the water, courtesy of Mr Moonlight. Our target is a vacant lot in Rushcutter’s Bay where the old Tin Shed used to stand. Now a low mound of landscaped dirt between an expressway and a railway. And right now I’d like to play a little number written by a good friend of mine. He’s dead now. But press in on the button, you can hear him sing..and if you feel like ripping out the seats as a gesture of rememberance, we won’t mind at all.
Walking along, singing a song
The Stranger first sang when they dropped The Bomb
He wore drape suits and brothel creepers and oh how he danced among the ruins. He had many disguises as the years went by. I remember one time, long time ago, he sported a beret and goatee, and like, he was one hep cat, hanging round in cafes reading ‘On The Road’ and talking about the Place of Doom in Society. Espresso Bongosville, man. But he kept on changing. Twenty years ago, he discovered sin, gee whiz, wowee zowie, and he knew he was sinning when he did things – mm mm let’s do something dirty in the back seat – but that was what was so good. And then he became A-moral, just plain A-bomb A-moral and exploded all over the place, swinging and groovy, baby, in a mods ‘n’ rocker riot of colour and noise and it was hell keeping up but that was what was so good. I mean, it’s gear, innit? And then somewhere along the line, out of nowhere man, oh shhiitttt, he just slowed down, man, and faded like he was fixing to die, and it was all over. He was no longer a Stranger in a Strange Land dancing in the face of collective death. He was sort of midway nowhere, like the times, and the post-Woodstock malaise was in his hair..
VELVET makes another jukebox selection: ‘The Tracks Of My Tears’ plays and or is sung by ANGEL and VELVET.
JET: So right now I’d like to introduce my good friend Pagliacci, playing in the band for many years, tonight he’s on bombsights. Pagliacci, he’s the clown who cried. The dust of antique laughter covers him as he haunts my memory. This is Pagliacci’s Last Number. An oldie but a goodie. Dig it.
PAGLIACCI rises, a Little Red Book in his hand.
JET: (sideshow barker) Pagliacci! Pagliacci! He’s the Ghost Of Seaside Fairs!
PAGLIACCI: I’m the King of Backstage Tears!
JET: He’s Cathy’s Clown, the Party Fool!
PAGLIACCI: Out in the cold and never cool!
JET: He’s a onetime carny spook!
PAGLIACCI: I’m the one with the Little Red Book!
(deep voice) And you know baby, when I look into my book, oh so late at night..
JET: There were one thousand dances in Surf City, And he could do all of them.
PAGLIACCI: I see the names of girls I knew
Who never held me tight..
JET: There were one thousand girls in Surf City and he never kissed any of them.
PAGLIACCI: And I remember all the little thins
We never did, nor shared..
JET: So he measured out his life in Dream Lovers.
PAGLIACCI: And the thrill of you being close to me
Simply wasn’t there..
He flips through his Little Red Book.
PAGLIACCI: So, little darlings, I just listened to your songs on the radio and wrote down your names in my Little Red Book. Maybelline. Why can’t you be true? Where are you, Mary Lou? Voulez vous, Suzie Q? Good Golly, Miss Molly, you sure like to ball. So I heard. Oh oh, Honey do? Honey don’t. Each week, a different name in the book, and I took you up into the sand dunes on Radio Beach and I did The Jerk. Spick’s ‘n’ specks, you don’t know what you missed. I used to love you but it’s all over now.
PAGLIACCI: There’s a brand new dance that’s going around
Bringing people down all over the town
Come on, everybody, let’s do the Arrivederci!
A-just-a like-a, Pagliacci!
He sets fire to the pages of his Little Red Book.
As JET plays a haunting sax solo.
PAGLIACCI: Goodbye little darlings. All you wahines took your Panasonics out of the sun years ago.
He leaves the Little Red Book to burn.
PAGLIACCI: Radio Beach is deserted, you fool. Rain is spotting the sand.
PAGLIACCI does the “Air Hostess” dance as he moves through the cabin, indicating exits, pressing buttons, closing luggage compartments..
PAGLIACCI: May I have your attention please, ladies and gentlemen? We are currently flying at a dangerously low altitude over the Pacific Ocean. Weather conditions are seriously spooky. It’s not a nice night to be out in. This aircraft is equipped with emergency exits fore and aft. Keys are available upon request from your stewards, should you be able to locate them. A handy paper bag is located under your seat. Lifejackets may be found inside the paper bag, along with your World War Two-issue oxygen mask, two sachets of toxic sweetener and an autographed photo of Johnny Ray’s hearing aid. In situ!
He puts left hand to ear, while swinging right arm, as Johnny Ray.
PAGLIACCI: In the highly probable event of emergency, please extinguish all children and fasten seat belts, should they be provided.
You put your seat belt on
You put your children out
You put a Bible in your hand
And you shake it all about
On behalf of the crew, I trust you have a pleasant flight and look forward to again travelling with you in the next world.
ANGEL: Tagliatelli? Vermicelli? Rigatone?
ANGEL: Fettucine. Take a walk on the wing? And keep the mouth open, Mortadella. You make a perfect windsock.
PAGLIACCI: Yes ma’am, Angel Sugar.
He joins JET.
PAGLIACCI: I blew it.
JEYT: Dead set?
PAGLIACCI: Dead set. She’s just like I imagined an Angel Sugar would be. When I first heard her name, I knew what she would be like and I fell in love. Dead set. Only I blew it.
He returns to bombardier position. Peers out bomb bay.
PAGLIACCI: I really like that name. Angel Sugar – Cowabunga - !
He points dead ahead. In alarm.
PAGLIACCI: A ship! Angel, look out, a ship!
ANGEL urgently pulls up on the joystick, climbing to avoid the ship. The crew are thrown about.
ANGEL: Whoa! Come up, Enola, you bitch! Come up!
Collision is anticipated. The plane struggles to climb..
ANGEL: Come up - !
ALL: Aaaaahhhh - !
ANGEL: Good girl..
Success. ANGEL swigs from a flask. Laughs.
ANGEL: That was close.
JET: How close?
ANGEL: Bee’s dick.
PAGLIACCI displays a pennant, monogrammed “Pacifique Sud”, collected in the near miss..
PAGLIACI: French bee’s dick.
..as JET looks out a window.
JET: French warship.
PAGLIACCI: (to ANGEL) Where exactly are we?
ANGEL: Outside the exclusion zone.
PAGLIACCI: Are you s-s-s-serious?
JET: How far outside? Do you have to fly so low?
ANGEL: Under the radar, doc. Zoom. Keep your wig hat on your head.
PAGLIACCI and VELVET join JET, peering out the window.
VELVET: Le Bomb, encore.
PAGLIACCI: Everybody wants one. Every home should have one.
VELVET: Gotta keep up with the Jones’s.
JET: Roll over Mururoa and tell Polynesia the news.
VELVET: Go home!
ANGEL: Buzz ‘em?
VELVET: Tora! Tora! Tora!
PAGLIOACCI: Dive! Dive! Banzai!
ANGEL manoeuvres to ‘buzz’ the ship, tossing the crew around.
JET: Angel -! Jesus!
ANGEL: Hang on!
JET: Pull out! Pull out!
ANGEL pulls the plane out of the dive.
PAGLIACCI: Quel panic! You scared the merde out of them froggies, Angel! Frenchies everywhere.
VELVET: Like my local oval on Sunday morning. It was a shortcut to church?
JET: That was too close.
ANGEL: God war is hell. Something tearing your hair?
VELVET: Bomb schmom. Correct, Jet? A silly French bomb anyway. Get with the program, Angel. Colliding with a warship isn’t The Plan.
ANGEL: Maybe it should be.
JET: It’s not the plan. And we arranged a rendezvous.
VELVET: Are you going to call the roll? Teds? Present. Bodgies? Present. Beatniks? Right. Where are the beatniks? Late. As usual. Reefer mad. As usual. No discipline to their rebellion. As usual.
JET: Uh huh.
VELVET: Oh yeah, uh huh.
JET walks away.
VELVET: (to ANGEL) He’s gone again.
ANGEL: God war is hell.
JET: Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! Check this out!
He is peering out the bomb bay.
JET: Some cat’s down there, in the water! Slow down! Slow down!
ANGEL: Slow down?
JET: Swimming! The cat is swimming!
VELVET: Seems fair.
PAGLIACCI: Poor kitty. Cats hate water, Is it a little kitty cat?
JET: No, a cat. A cat.
PAGLIACCI: A cat?
JET: Yeah! A cat! A real cat.
JET: Shit! He’s gone under! Swing round! Swing round! Go down!
ANGEL swings the plane around..and descends.
VELVET: Angel! The ship - !
ANGEL takes evasive action. Tossing the crew about.
PAGLIACCI: Where is this cat?
JET: There! There! He is swimming! In..flying gear! Leathers. And..he..he’s got a trombone strapped to his back.
VELVET: I beg your pardon?
JET: He has a trombone strapped to his back. A beautiful golden slide trombone. Oompah oompah?
VELVET: Stoock oop ‘is joomper?
JET: There! See? Going over that wave.
PAGLIACCI: Yeah. You’re a long way out, mate. Should’ve turned left at La Perouse!
VELVET: Drop him a lifejacket.
JET: No lifejackets.
VELVET: All planes have life jackets.
JET: Not this plane.
VELVET: You are such a control freak. We can’t leave him there.
JET: Nothing we can do.
VELVET: We can go back.
JET: We’re not going back.
VELVET: We have to go back.
JET: He’ll freeze to death first.
ANGEL: 909 to base. 909 to base. Over.
ANGEL flicks on flashing exterior lights.
PAGLIACCI: What’s that in his right hand? Flapping..
JET: It’s a satchel. He’s got a satchel in his hand.
ANGEL: Does he know we’re here?
PAGLIACCI: Treading water now. Like he’s figuring which way to go. That way! Back that way!
JET: There are papers coming out of the satchel. He’s stopped to collect them.
ANGEL: He can’t miss us. He must know we’re here.
JET: Don’t think he cares.
ANGEL: Yes! Yes, base, this is 909. Base, we require emergency air sea rescue. We have sighted a man in the sea. Co-ordinates..
JET: It’s his sheet music.
ANGEL: 33’15” south, 15’20” west. There is a cruise ship in the area. Over.
JET: Glenn Miller.
PAGLIACCI: Glenn Miller.
JET: Airman. Played trombone. Famous satchel. Plane down in sea.
VELVET: During the war? In the English Channel?
PAGLIACCI: Must be a fantastic swimmer.
ANGEL: Oh for Christ’s sake. There is a man in the sea! Yes, we’re unauthorised, yes, we are in a flight path, and yes, we’re a hazard to shipping, but this is Glenn Miller! Over!
JET: He’s off again.
PAGLIACCI: Other way, dummy! Other way!
JET: He could see us and the ship if he wanted. But he’s cool. Glenn is cool.
Pause. They watch, until..
VELVET: He’s gone.
PAGLIACCI: Hope he makes it to the gig.
PAGLIACCI: Woo! What if it was him, hey?
VELVET: What if it wasn’t him?
JET: It has to be him.
VELVET: Of course. It must be him. Otherwise..
JET: We’re not going back. For anyone.
ANGEL: Base. This is 909. Go to hell, daddy-O. Over and out.
PAGLIACCI closes the bomb door.
END of ACT 1
As at the end of Act 1..
JET: They say he might have suicided. Glenn Miller. He was the first. First muso to go out in a plane crash.
PAGLIACCI: Dead set.
JET: The story goes that on his last leave, back in the States, he was walking down the street..
PAGLIACCI: Swinging to himself. (sings) “A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-“
JET: When he ran into a wild black boy from Macon, Georgia. This kid was only 12 but he had a pencil-thin black moustache just above his lip and he was quite psychotic. At first this didn’t worry Glenn..
PAGLIACCI: (sings) “I got a gal in Kalamazoo..”
JET: Right. Swing. Smooth. Until this kid leapt on top of a nearby cotton bale, rolled his eyes..
PAGLIACCI: (sings) “Don’t want to boast but I know she’s the toast, of Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo..”
JET: And whispered in Glenn’s ear:
(as Little Richard)
“A wop bop aloo bop a lop bam boom!
Got a gal, named Daisy
Almost drive me crazy
Got a gal, named Daisy
Almost drive me crazy!
She’s a real gone cookie, yessiree
But pretty little Suzy’s the girl for me
Tutti frutti, au rootie
Tutti frutti, au rootie
A wop bop aloo bop a lop bam boom!”
PAGLIACCI: Did he say that?
JET: And they say Glenn went away and never came back because he knew his number was up. 1944. Didn’t wait for Enola Gay. He knew.
PAGLIACCI: Dead set?
JET: Dead set.
PAGLIACCI: Dead set.
VELVET: Are the others really going to show up?
JET: In droves.
PAGLIACI: Is that the collective noun for planes? Droves?
VELVET: It’s what happens to sheep and cattle. No offence. I’m not saying..I’m just scared. Isn’t anyone else scared?
JET hugs VELVET..
JET: We’re all scared. But it’s going to be all right.
PAGLIACCI: All right all right.
..but (JET) soon withdraws.
PAGLIACCI: We should have no fear, for the King is with us!
PAGLIACCI withdraws a cloth and wood doll’s head from his jacket pocket: a likeness of Johnny O’Keeffe.
PAGLIACCI: Beholden Sandman. The head of The King!
ANGEL: Merdesville. The Wild One. J.O’K!
PAGLIACCI: I am The King. I was born during the great explosion when every one else died and the old king drowned in the sea. And riding in my Plymouth Belvedere Spaceship I led my Bodgies and Widgies out of bondage and made the Great Decree: “What it means, dad, is that nothing that happened more than five years ago ever happened.”
VELVET: Is that what it means? I’ve been wondering what it meant.
JET: Now you know.
VELVET: Now I know. What’s the head for?
PAGLIACCI: The King, he thinks with it.
ANGEL: It’s a knock-em-down dolly.
She takes the J.O’K head.
PAGLIACCI: Give the lady a kewpie doll.
ANGEL: I’m loaded with sideshow prizes. A plaster dog, a silver horse, sixteen tons of coconut ice. The boys throw. I wiggle in admiration. Angel’s mobile kissing booth. Coin in the slot and - Mwah.
PAGLIACCI collects his kit bag.
PAGLIACCI: You ain’t seen nothing yet, eh Johnny? Ladies, forget your Cha Chas and Mirror Mazes and Scenic Railroads, Pagliacci’s Knock-Em-Downs are the Greatest Show On Earth!
He opens the kitbag.
PAGLIACCI: Come closer, don’t be shy, look in here, little girl.
JET: Boiled lollies?
PAGLIACCI: Better than boiled lollies. You’ll be astounded, you’ll weep, you’ll shout and scream and wet yourself, for Pagliacci he offers you a glimpse of heaven, a way to reach the stars, a chance to touch immortality, for Pagliacci he has more than the head of The King. Pre-senting.. the heads of all the stars who died at their peak, in plane crashes and car crashes, from gunshots and assorted overdoses..!
He withdraws another doll’s head from the kitbag.
PAGLIACCI: The Prince of Tonsil Tossers, Buddy uh-huh-uh Holly! Looking as he looked on February 3rd 1959 when the light snow fell as he flew away from his final gig at the Surf Ballroom and really hit the big time.
(sings) Well that’ll be the day, huh huh huh..and his little Mexican bride Maria, she cried her a river, oh yeah.
ANGEL: Hello, Buddy. All my love and all my kissin’..
VELVET: You don’t know what you’ve been missin’..
ANGEL: Oh boy. You got his pals?
PAGLIACCI extracts another doll.
PAGLIACCI: The Big Bopper!
ANGEL: You know what I like!
PAGLIACCI: And little Richie Valens, just seventeen years old. La la la la Bamba, Oh Donna, gonna be seventeen till the end of time. Try your luck, miss?
ANGEL withdraws a doll’s head.
ANGEL: Eddie Cochran!
VELVET: Eddie Cochran. I should have known.
PAGLIACCI: 17th April, 1960, the English spring –
ANGEL: Drove away from the Bristol Hippodrome, twenty one years old, and finally cured his summertime blues.
VELVET extracts a doll.
VELVET: A golliwog?
PAGLIACCI: That there ain’t no golliwog, missy, that there is Otis Redding!
VELVET: I knew that. Good old young Otis.
PAGLIACCI: Another time, another plane, another lake.
He withdraws a doll.
PAGLIACCI: James Dean! Pioneer of juvenile immortality. Red jacket rebel, loaned it to a friend and straightaway crashed his car. Note the permanent hurt in his eyes.
In rapid succession:
PAGLIACCI: Brian Jones! Jimi Hendrix! Oops. Jimi Hendrix! Brian Jones! Sorry, lads. Jim Morrison!
ANGEL: OK. OK. Where is she?
PAGLIACCI: Here she comes, the pride of Texas, little big brother’s sister with the kozmik blues. Look at the pain on that face!
The doll is mounted on a Southern Comfort flask..
ANGEL: Oh, Janis.
VELVET: Can I hold Janis? I know Janis.
ANGEL: Take it. Take another little piece of my heart now, ba-bee!
PAGLIACCI: Sam Cooke!
ANGEL: Murdered by a jealous lover..
PAGLIACCI: And a very popular target on the knock-em-downs too.
VELVET: Have you got Patsy Cline?
VELVET: Patsy Cline. Country singer.
PAGLIACCI: I didn’t even know she was sick. Just a joke, ma’am.
He withdraws a Patsy Cline doll.
PAGLIACCI: And that’s it, ladies and gentlemen, the complete set. All the Big Ones anyway. Kings, Queens, and Princes, Newel Posts on the Stairway to Heaven, a kitbag full ‘o’ legend, the 8th Wonder of the World – hold on, one more – Johnny Ace, my one concession to obscurity. Gambler in name and nature, backstage in Houston, Christmas eve, 1954, he was playing Russian Roulette with a loaded gun and he lost. Straightaway “Pledging My Love” sold like Throaties in winter. An inspiration to us all. Especially the music industry.
ANGEL: J.O’K crashed his car just outside my home town. Kempsey. I nagged my dad senseless until he took me out to see the car. And the tree.
She produces a large chrome car bonnet badge.
ANGEL: Front page, Kempsey News: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star Injured In Smash. Local Hoodlums Strip Car”
PAGLIACCI: I did his head the day after his crash. Then he pulled through.
VELVET: Was that good or bad?
JET sits with his back turned.
ANGEL: What’s his problem?
PAGLIACCI: He thinks the dolls are disrespectful. And J.O’K is a grey area. Heart attack induced by accidental overdose of prescribed medicine?
VELVET: There is a touch of grey about it. Jet is a black and white guy.
PAGLIACCI: I just couldn’t keep J.O’K out of the lineup.
VELVET’S LAST NUMBER
VELVET makes a juke box selection: “You Can’t Catch Me” (Chuck Berry) plays and/or is sung, by VELVET and ANGEL, under the following sequence.
JET suddenly leaps from his seat.
JET: (shrieks) My my my my my my my! It ain’t what you do, it’s the way how you do it! Ooooh! This is the third chorus, so let’s get with and let’s go! Everybody say woo!
JET: Raise your right hand and testify!
JET: Clap your hands!
PAGLIACCI testifies, claps.
JET: Snap your fingers!
PAGLIACCI testifies, claps, snaps fingers.
JET: Do The Jerk, everybody work!
PAGLIACCI testifies, claps, snaps fingers, does The Jerk.
JET: Stomp your feet, get with my beat!
PAGLIACCI testifies, claps, snaps, Jerks, stomps feet.
JET: Dedicated to the Stranger, Ghost from the Land of a Thousand Dances! One more time!
PAGLIACCI repeats the sequence of moves.
JET: One more time!
PAGLIACCI repeats the sequence of moves.
JET: Because now the daddies dig and the mummies wig and now we are the mummies and daddies, all grown-up menaces, and there’s no difference, we really did blow it, Billy, nothing happened..
PAGLIACCI repeats the sequence of moves.
PAGLIACCI: Woo! And it’s time to drop another bomb.
JET: Third chorus. Velvet’s last number. Introducing a young lady friend of mine, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re still playing together, Mr Moonlight, and I’m sure you’re going to love her as much as I do. Velvet, she’s the Little Girl Blue, and my memory of her is tinged with lonesome tears, for she hangs in my thoughts half-known. The Stranger wore socks that glowed in the dark when she was already asking too much.
VELVET activates the jukebox: Blue Velvet.
VELVET: Mind if I cut in?
She takes JET’S saxophone, hands it to PAGLIACCI.
VELVET/JET dance together, slowly. Jet somewhat stiffly.
VELVET: (sings) “Well hello there, my it’s been a long long time..” Yes, it’s me, little old Debbie Reynolds, here for one last showing of Tammy and the Alien.
Pause. They continue to dance.
VELVET: (sings) “How am I doing? I guess I’m doing fine..” Can we dance a little closer?
JET concurs, but discomforted.
VELVET: (sings) “It’s been so long now, and it seems like it was only yesterday
Ain’t it funny how time slips away..”
Notice my face? Blank. I’ve mastered the cold face, just in time.
(sings) “How’s your new love? I hope that she’s doing fine..”
See my eyes? Steely. Nothing shows.
(sings) “I heard you told her. that you’d love her, till the end of time..”
The Alien Cool. Disengaged and one of the gang, now. Yeah, baby.
(sings) “Now that’s the same thing that you told me, seems like just the other day
Ain’t it funny, how time slips away..”
But no tears. No no no no no tears. In future, we’ll hold our meetings on the moon. And we’ll make our alien love, hard and dry and strong as dust, the last post-Hiroshima Romance come true for you and me.
(sings) “Ain’t it funny, how time slips away..”
Fade to blackout.
Flying configuration. Tail end lit.
SFX: rushing wind, outside.
VELVET approaches JET, seated, peering out a tail window.
VELVET: Sea of Serenity or Ocean of Storms?
She touches his cheek. He flinches.
VELVET: Danger. Danger. Sorry. Inside the exclusion zone.
She peers at his face, white in the light from outside.
VELVET: Moonlit or ashen?
VELVET: Cool or cauterised? Are you there?
She holds the pack of letters received from JET.
VELVET: Crazy letters, Jet. I don’t believe a single word in the entire collection. I might have, once.
She hands them to him.
VELVET: Here. Read. Do you good. Give you a laugh.
JET: You’ve changed.
VELVET: Not enough. What is this thing called cool? Terror? Why can’t you just tell the truth?
JET brandishes the letters.
JET: It is the truth.
Pause. VELVET stares.
VELVET: Penny dropping. Dropping. Dropped. You actually can’t tell the truth. Because you truly don’t know what it is.
JET raises his hands, in surrender.
JET: Velvet. Nothing’s gonna change, not now.
VELVET: Is that why you like the songs? Little hidey-holes for your heart?
JET: I’m sorry.
VELVET: Well that’s all right then. Not. Bloody not. (sings) “I’m sorry”. Another song, mate. Another little hidey-hole. It’s bullshit, Jet. Sweet beat bullshit.
JET: So..why are you here?
VELVET: You’d ask that? Still? Bloody hell. But I’ve been thinking. If there’s a parachute, I just might bail out and grow up. Do we have parachutes? Or is that against the code - ? Oh, now that is a bit much to take right now.
VELVET is disturbed by the sight of ANGEL and PAGLIACCI, kissing passionately.
VELVET: What is this?
JET: It’s an opera. In the end he stabs her.
PAGLIACCI: You parked your big shiny car on the headland and left the lights on, beaming out over the ocean.
ANGEL: You stood under a lamppost on the promenade, smoking, watching waves break in the dark.
PAGLIACCI: You wore a deep blue dress with a split up the side. The car door was open, revealing the lit interior, your body arched into the wind, one hand gently holding your hair.
ANGEL: You leaned on the lamppost, staring at my car, then pulled up the hood of your duffle coat, threw your cigarette into the gutter, and walked up the hill to me. Just like Tony Perkins.
PAGLIACCI: You were alone.
ANGEL: You were lonely.
PAGLIACCI: Hi. My name’s Pagliacci. You live around here?
ANGEL: Pagliacci? That’s a funny name, kid. You a clown or something?
PAGLIACCI: I’m the King Of Clowns. At the end of every show I shed tears and throttle my scarlet woman. But I’m on holidays.
ANGEL: Angel. Passing through. Driving up to visit my mum and dad, in Kempsey.
PAGLIACCI: You don’t look like a Kempsey girl.
ANGEL: You look like a beach missionary.
PAGLIACCI: They stole my uniform.
ANGEL: Pull down your hood so I can see your face.
PAGLIACCI: I cut myself shaving.
ANGEL: Like to sit in my car?
PAGLIACCI: I bet you say that to all the boys, ha ha.
PAGLIACCI: I knew then I wasn’t the first.
ANGEL: I knew then he was probably the last. Wipe the sand off your legs first.
PAGLIACCI: I think I love you.
ANGEL: You remind me of my first boyfriend.
PAGLIACCI: You remind me of the women Harry Belafonte sings to. They wear scarlet ribbons in their hair and live on islands in the sun. I look all white but my dad was black.
ANGEL: I better hit the road.
PAGLIACCI: Would you like to stay the night at my place? I can sleep in the back with Colin the Strong Man. You have beautiful shoulders.
ANGEL: My first boyfriend said that too.
PAGLIACCI: I’d like to put a photo of you on my dresser. Wearing a red blouse with puff sleeves and a scalloped front. Like Carmen Jones wore. You’re a lot like Carmen Jones. She was a painted woman too. I would like to eat lychees out of your clavicles. Do you wear large gold earrings?
ANGEL: Threw them away when I left Kempsey.
PAGLIACCI: I was born in a caravan. I’ve never lived in a town.
ANGEL: You haven’t missed much. Sad movies. Cafes called The Paragon.
PAGLIACCI: When did you leave Kempsey?
ANGEL: Right after my first boyfriend.
PAGLIACCI: Was it a town without pity? Are you getting misty?
ANGEL: Sad movies. In the middle of a colour cartoon I started to cry.
PAGLIACCI: I think I love you.
ANGEL: Don’t you have a girlfriend, Pagliacci?
PAGLIACCI: No. I keep meaning to.
ANGEL: You have lipstick on your collar.
PAGLIACCI: It’s mine. Come to my place?
ANGEL: I don’t think so. No time.
PAGLIACCI: Can I put your photo on my dresser?
ANGEL: No Carmen blouse. They should be here by now.
PAGLIACCI: It’s so hard loving you. Loving you-oo-oo.
ANGEL: Please don’t get serious. Jet? Where are they?
JET: They’re here! The sky is full of them! Can’t you see?
Downstage: JET, VELVET, PAGLIACCI, as at microphones.
JET: It was BIG. Oh so very big. I wish you could have seen it, Enola. A big, beautiful aerial razzle dazzle. (sings) “Everybody razzle dazzle..”We were in the low level wave. God knows how many waves were circling above. Thousands. Swarming like silver bees.
PAGLIACCI: I believed him. The King was with us. J.O’K flying overhead for a concert at Radio Beach, me browning in the sun, lying beside Carmen Jones. Just like it always was.
VELVET: I fired a flare. I don’t know who we were signalling to. Jet could see in the dark and he was sure they were all out there. I watched the flare curl high overhead. Orange. Like a sodium highway light out in the country at night. I swear I could see the shadow of leaves moving on the window, like in my room, after dark. I fired a distress flare, that’s what I did.
JET: You could see everybody in the glow. Everybody. The wings shone orange.
PAGLIACCI: Fireworks. Ooh pretty. Final night of the show. Take down the tents, hit the road. Leave the sawdust. Soak up the rain.
JET: Fourth chorus, Angel’s Last Number. Bittersweet Angel, she’s been playing in the band longer than any of us. Lady of one thousand coloured faces. Pickup of one thousand Johnny Aces. She knew The Stranger better than any of us. You saw his every disguise as she painted the changes on her face.
PAGLIACCI: She was a Lover, a Leader of Men.
VELVET makes a jukebox selection: Little Town Flirt (Del Shannon) plays and/or is sung by JET and VELVET.
ANGEL joins the others, to form a quartet strung across stage.
JET/VELVET: (sing) “Here she comes..”
PAGKLIACCI: Here she comes..
JET/VELVET: (sing) “That little town flirt..”
JET/VELVET: (sing) “You’re falling for her and you’re gonna get hurt..”
PAGLIACCI: No no no no no. No way.
JET/VELVET: (sing) Oh I know it’s so hard to resist..”
PAGLIACCI: So hard.
JET/VELVET: (sing) “The temptation of her tender red lips..”
PAGLIACCI: So tender.
JET/VELVET: (sing) “But you can get hu-u-u-u-urt..”
PAGLIACCI: She’ll never hurt me.
JET/VELVET: (sing) “Yeah you can get hu-u-u-u-urt..”
PAGLIACCIU: She won’t desert me.
JET/VELVET: (sing) “Foolin’ around with that little town flirt..”
PAGLIACCI: No, she’s an angel sent to me.
ANGEL moves as Dusty Springfield: jazzy white soul diva.
Distinctive hand moves: pointing, veiling, illustrating..
ANGEL: Coal-black eyes, I played them like the ace of spades. Ghost-blue eyes, I held them as ice in my glass.
JET/VELVET/PAGLIACCI: (sing) Cheat. Cheat.
ANGEL: Ruby lips, I trembled like the Queen of Hearts. Candy pink lips, I parted them and kissed from afar.
JET/VELVET/PAGLIACCI: (sing) Cheat. Cheat.
ANGEL: Blood red nails, I moved like a dealer’s hand. Snow-white nails, I touched like frost on smoke.
JET/VELVET/PAGLIACCI: (sing) Cheat. Cheat.
ANGEL: Sweet Little Sixteen, times two. Keep away from Runaround Sue. I’m a Big Girl now and I know just what to do. Dig this. Angel. She’s parked in a one way street. There’s a crayon in her hand and she closes her eyes. And Pretty Little Angel Eyes is gone. New eyes, dressed like dynamite, set to blow her face apart.
Fast lady, oh fast lady, fast lady,
she’ll change her face. That’s all it takes, to take another chance.
Sharp lady, oh sharp lady sharp lady.
She’ll change her town. That’s all it takes to burn her tracks behind.
Hard lady, oh hard lady hard lady. She’ll fill another glass. That’s all it takes to make her feel at home.
Oh yes, I’m a big girl now. I’ve got my colour sticks, I’ve got my set of wheels, got my bottle of booze. That’s all it takes, ooh honey that’s all it takes, to be a big girl all your life. Ciao baby. Kisses and hugs.
PAGLIACCI opens the bomb bay trapdoor. He sits, legs dangling outside, a little crazed.
VELVET joins ANGEL.
VELVET: I thought you liked him.
ANGEL: I’ve perfected the one minute stand. (to JET) Crossing the coastline..now!
PAGLIACCI: Woohoo! I feel the spray! I hear the breakers!(surf moves) Ha! Quasimodo! El spontaneo! Spinners and twirlies! Pagliacci he hangs ten!
VELVET: He could be my son.
PAGLIACCI: Bombadier to pilot. Come in, honeybee. If you ever change your mind, you know where to buzz me.
PAGLIACCI withdraws another doll from his jacket: Carmen Jones.
PAGLIACCI: You’ve had an overdose too, haven’t you, Carmen? May I call you Dorothy? Dorothy Dandridge. What a nice name. Dorothy Dorothy bo-borothy. Dandridge Dandridge bo-bandridge. (kisses doll) D.D.
ANGEL: Entering occupied territory.
JET: Ready ready teddy!
PAGLIACCI: Ready ready teddy. Johnny’s going to rock it like never before. And D.D. will OD like never before. My legs feel very hairy. Hey mum! You watching?
JET: The expressway?
ANGEL: Following lights right to target. Commencing descent.
JET: We’re not the first. Look at them all.
ANGEL: Joining bombing queue now..
VELVET: Hey, Pagliacci, how about turning on the bombs? Not too loud. Just soothe me.
PAGLIACI turns on the assorted radios..
ANGEL: ETA target one minute. Commencing bombing run..now. All yours, Mr Pagliacci.
PAGLIACCI, prone, peers out bomb bay trapdoor.
PAGLIACCI: Thankyou driver. Steady..This raid comes to the people of our town in stereophonic hi-fidelity. Steady..left a little..a little more..
VELVET: Give it to them!
PAGLIACCI: Hold her steady on the double yellow lines. We turn right at The Bowl..
ANGEL: Just give me a little warning, petal. The traffic lights will do.
PAGLIACCI: Steady..what if the lights are red?
ANGEL: Lean out and press the button.
PAGLIACCI: Whoa! You ain’t kidding! There are skid marks on the roof of a bus back there!
JET: (to VELVET) Come down the back. Naughtiest seat on the bus. Kissingest seat at the flicks. Scariest seat on the roller coaster.
PAGLIACCI: Right a little..Steady..Is there someone else?
ANGEL: Pagliacci -
PAGLIACCI: There’s another man, isn’t there?
ANGEL: Oh Christ!
The plan “swerves”. JET and VELVET are jolted together.
ANGEL: Don’t do that!
ANGEL brings the aircraft back on course.
PAGLIACCI: Am I right? I’m right, aren’t I? There’s another man.
ANGEL: Yes, Pagliacci. There is another man.
PAGLIACCI: I knew it. Don’t cry, Johnny. Oh oh, tears out the bomb bay. Steady. Do I know him?
PAGLIACCI: Who is he? What’s his name? Tell me his name. Before I throttle you.
ANGEL: Jesus wept! Terry! His name’s Terry.
PAGLIACCI: Terry? Terry?
ANGEKL: He’s my son, OK? I have a sixteen year old son. Named Terry. Satisfied?
PAGLIACCI: After your first boyfriend? His kid? Is that why you left Kempsey?
ANGEL: You are bloody exhausting, you know that?
PAGLIACCI: Woo! Sugaro, I love you so, with all my heart from head to toe!
ANGEL: We just overshot the target, Ace.
JET: Pagliacci, you missed the lot altogether!
PAGLIACCI: Oh sugaring that lovely thing, when I’m kissing her the bells just ring!
VELVET: Pagliacci. Please stop..frigging around! Don’t you know we’re counting on you? I’m counting on you. To make this gesture perfect and untouchable and mythic and romantic. All that. Because if it isn’t, I promise you, I will start to cry. I will sit right down and cry me a river of sorrow and rage. And Jet will only run away again. OK?
PAGLIACCI: Aye aye, ma’am. I am a much chastened fool.
ANGEL: Coming round again, Mr Bombadier.
PAGLIACCI: Where is your son?
ANGEL: On a commune. With wheat behind his ears. Or maybe barley. While his mother keeps on doing loop de loops.
PAGLIACCI: Is he really like me?
ANGEL: He’s nothing at all like you.
PAGLIACCI: I look pretty young but I’m just back-dated.
PAGLIACCI: Could you pretend you love me?
ANGEL: Coming into..right on line now..
JET: If we can find our way through this flock of flyboys! It’s catch and kill out there. Planes everywhere. A zillion of them!
VELVET: The first one’s down! The first plane is down! That’s a plane, isn’t it? In the par? Bless their cotton socks. Another! Into the harbour!
PAGLIACCI: Hahahahaha wipeout!
JET: Two more. Into the parking lot. On fire. Death to Detroit!
ANGEL: All yours, bombardier.
PAGLIACCI: Right..a fraction..OK..
JET: Another! Onto the Hilton!
VELVET: Viva Las Vegas!
PAGLIACCI: Stready..steady..that’s it..riding up the Champs Elysee Australien..William Street..up the hill..past the Coca-Cola sign..
VELVET: There goes one into the Bowl! Strike!
PAGLIACCI: Around the wee bend..veer right..yes.. ..yes..Now!..Bombs gone! The clown spits out the ping pong balls!
Pause. Expectant wait.
ALL: Yes! YES!
VELVET: You hit the dirt, Pagliacci! Smack dab in the middle!
PAGLIACCI closes the trapdoor.
JET: Beautiful, pal, just beautiful. The noisy little buggers landed together in two small puffs of dust, like raindrops in the desert, and stopped. So soft. Poetry in motion.
ANGEL: Not bad, sport.
VELVET: It’s raining. Is that rain? Listen!
SFX: A constant roar, like heavy rain.
VELVET: It’s teeming!
JET: It’s raining radios! Uptown, downtown, sheets of sound, all around. Roll over Rock-Ola and tell Sydney Stadium the news. Goo-ood Golly! Rickapoody and a- fan-doogley!
VELVET: (sings) “Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain
Telling me what a fool I’ve been..”
PAGLIACCI: Hey! You get off there! Bloody trannies stacking up on the wings. The little bleeders are piling up like snow! You get off of there!
ANGEL: I’ll shake them loose. Allez-oop!
She banks, hard. The crew fall about.
JET: They’re goin’ down all over the town.
Half the fleet must have hit. Fires everywhere..
ANGEL: It’s thick up ahead.
PAGLIACCI opens the bomb bay trapdoor..to a blast of infernal light and..
SFX: Deafening roar. Like torrential rain. Or massed applause.
PAGLIACCI has the J.O’K doll in his hand.
PAGLIACCI: Hear that, Johnny? A thousand hands applaud tonight. They love you. So you forget your natural shyness, Johnny, and give the people what they want. This time you’re really going to make it.
He hurls the J.O’K head out.
PAGLIACCI: Go, go, go, Johnny, go!
He closes the trapdoor again.
PAGLIACCI: That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. Not you. Dorothy. We go together. For eternity.
ANGEL: Our turn, sweets.
ANGEL: Pagliacci. Think you could fly the last loop? I fancy unwinding.
PAGLIACCI: Easy peasy. Just tell me what to do.
VELVET: You can’t really go wrong.
PAGLIACCI: Hold Dorothy for me? You two are very alike.
ANGEL: Just hold the joy stick where it is. That’s it. We’re climbing straight up. Straight up to ten thousand feet..and then we’ll turn over gently..and dive..into the vacant lot.
PAGLIACCI: Roger that.
ANGEL: Right, start easing her back a little. Gently. Gently.
VELVET: (to JET) Are we doing it right?
ANGEL: And now we start to curve over. Slowly..
PAGLIACCI: I wonder where Johnny crashed.
ANGEL: A little bit further now..a little bit further now..and ever so gently, we flip over, onto our back..and down..
Downstage: the four line up, spotlit, as vocal quartet.
ANGEL: One thousand feet.
PAGLIACCI: One thousand Dreamboats. And a bag of tricks. Clowns are just a warm-up for the main act.
ANGEL: One thousand Lovers. Once upon a time, a young girl. Then out of the blue, skidoo. Pretty Little Angel Eyes is gone.
VELVET: One thousand Goodbyes. A ring-in amongst Enola’s mutants, a phony, in love with their Leader, most committed mutant of them all.
JET: One thousand Songs. A zipzillion radios. Soundtrack to solitude, blood to a heart of stone.
ANGEL: Nine hundred feet.
PAGLIACCI: Clowns get the girls laughing, ripe and ready to fall for the boys who make them cry.
ANGEL: (sings) “Standing on the corner, watching all the beats go by..” A speed queen, collecting faces.
VELVET: Is there still a spark? Am I just whistling in the dark?
JET: What is left? Radio’s glowing valves, the colour of a setting sun, or a faded Kodachrome of an afternoon back when.
ANGEL: Five hundred feet.
PAGLIACCI: It’s my funeral and I’ll cry if I want to. For I hold in my hand the Kitbag Of Kings.
PAGLIACI opens the trapdoor/bomb bay once more. To the blast of infernal light and..
SFX: Deafening roar. Like torrential rain. Or massed applause.
PAGLIACCI empties the bag of dolls out the trapdoor.
Then closes the trapdoor.
ANGEL refreshes her lipstick.
ANGEL: One last face to see me through.
VELVET tears up the collection of letters.
VELVET: (sings) “I’m all cried out, all my little tears are all dried out..”
JET removes nine of the rings from his fingers.
JET: Nine golden rings. A gift, because we love you, Mr Moonlight.
ANGEL: Three hundred feet.
PAGLIACCI: Stragglers! Jimi and Janis, you get out of this bag right now!
ANGEL: Ciao baby. Kisses and hugs.
VELVET: The last post Hiroshima Romance, come true for you and me.
JET: Just because.
ANGEL: Two hundred feet.
PAGLIACCI: A clown in white.
ANGEL: A tart in scarlet.
VELVET: A baby in blue.
JET: A stranger in shadow.
ANGEL: One hundred feet.
PAGLIACCI: One paper heart.
ANGEL: One hard head.
VELVET: One mess of blues.
JET: One golden ring.
PAGLIACCI: On the beach.
ANGEL: On the road.
VELVET: On the moon.
JET: On my grave!
JET: And a one, and a two, and a one two three four!
SFX: The roar of radios peaks.
JET hurls the rings to the ground.
SFX: Giant explosion. As at start of the play.
The explosion, the roar of radios, fade to silence.
Tarmac lights come up, but faintly.
VELVET, ANGEL, PAGLIACCI are back in positions occupied at the beginning of the play.
PAGLIACCI: (sings softly) “Tra la la, la la la, la la li-lo..”
ANGEL: (sings softly) “Sha la la la la la la-la..”
VELVET: (sings softly) “Oobie doobie doobie do (falsetto) Ooh hoo hoo..”
JET appears, staggering, a shadowy figure.
JET: That’s all I remember. Ghosts in stacks of wax.
© Tim Gooding
Mr Moonlight R.L.Johnson
Blue Moon Rodgers/Hart
Stagger Lee L.Price/H.Logan
You Can’t Catch Me C.Berry
Stranger On The Shore A.Bilk
Are You Lonesome Tonight? R.Turk/L.Handman
That’s When Your Heartaches Begin Raskin/Hill/Fisher
Happiness Is A Warm Gun Lennon/McCartney
King Of Clowns Sedaka/Greenfield
Baby It’s You David/Williams/Bacharach
Language Of Love J.D.Loudermilk
Reelin’ and Rockin’ C.Berry
Shakin’ All Over J.Kidd
Serenade In Blue Gordon/Warren
You Never Can Tell C.Berry
Just Because L.Price
Run Samson Run Sedaka/Greenfield
Witch Doctor R.Bagdasarian, Sr
Da Doo Ron Ron Spector/Greenwich/Barry
Ooh Pooh Pah Doo J.Hill
Next Door To An Angel Sedaka/Greenfield
Land Of A Thousand Dances C.Kenner
Will You Love Me Tomorrow Goffin/King
Remember (Walking In The Sand) G.Morton
Help Me Rhonda B.Wilson
Barbara Anne F/Fassert
Do You Love Me? B.Gordy Jr
A Mess Of Blues Pomus/Schuman
Blueberry Hill Lewis/Stock/Rose
Leader Of The Pack Barry/Greenwich/Morton
In The Middle Of Nowhere Verdi/Kaye
Oh No Not My Baby Goffin/King
24 Hours From Tulsa Bacharach/David
Death Of A Clown D.Davies/R.Davies
Walk Right In Cannon/Woods/Darling/Svanoe
My Generation P.Townshend
Trains & Boats & Planes Bacharach/David
Last Chance To Turn Around Milrose/Bruno/Elgin
It’s My Party Weiner/Gluck Jr/Gold
I’m A Believer N.Diamond
Wild Thing C.Taylor
Rip It Up O.Blackwell
Dream Lover B.Darin
The Name Game S.Ellis
Devil In Her Heart R.Drapkin
“Dambusters” March E.Coates
See You Later Alligator R.Guidrey
Bye Bye Love B & F.Bryant
The Tracks Of My Tears Robinson/Moore/Tarplin
In My Book Vanda/Young
Hello Mary Lou G.Pitney
Surfer Girl B.Wilson
It’s All Over Now B & S.Womack
I Am The Walrus Lennon/McCartney
Walking To New Orleans Domino/Batholomew/Guidrey
I Got A Gal In Kalamazoo Gordon/Warren
Tutti Frutti Labostrie/Penniman
Sixteen Tons M.Travis
She Wears My Ring B & F.Bryant
That’ll Be The Day Holly/Petty/Allison
Oh Boy! West/Petty/Tilghman
Chantilly Lace J.P.Richardson
Piece Of My Heart Berns/Ragavoy
Move Baby Move Maurer/Farrell
He’s A Rebel G.Pitney
Funny How Time Slips Away W.Nelson
Little Girl Blue Rodgers/Hart
The Wanderer E.Maresca
It Doesn’t Matter Anymore P.Anka
Maybe Baby Petty/Holly
Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) J.D.Loudermilk
It’s Only Love Lennon/McCartney
Razzle Dazzle C.Calhoun
Little Town Flirt Shannon/McKenzie
Waterloo Sunset R.Davies
It’s The Same Old Song Holland/Dozier/Holland
Rhythm Of The Rain J.Gummoe
Standing On The Corner F.Loesser
All Cried Out Kaye/Springe