Just Show Business
by Mike Golden || Author's Links
I was watching pro football with Abbie. Patriots-Jets, exhibition. The dead zone of breathless August nowhere. And as usual Abbie had bet the lox from downstairs at Sarge's Deli on his bumbling Pats.
I wasn't sure whether he was a hero or a god, but ever since I picked up Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture, and read this paragraph I knew I wanted to be like Abbie: "Jews, especially first-born male Jews, have to make a big choice very quickly in life, whether to go for the money or to go for broke. It is the great genetic gamble we've all be granted. Wise guys who go around saying, 'Workers of the world unite,' or 'Every guy wants to screw his mother,' or 'E=mc2' obviously choose to go for broke. It's the greatest Jewish tradition, but unfortunately most take the other road and aim for the upper middle class of whatever society they find themselves in at any given moment. Most are 'better' Americans, just as fifty years ago they were 'better' Germans. They keep their noses clean and never get drunk."
I didn't actually get to know him until after he came back from his underground exile, but after meeting him at a party to celebrate his return above ground, I started working with him on a radio talk show at The Village Gate. On one of those afternoons we were just hanging out, waiting for the next guest to plug in, he said, "You know who I'd like to interview? I'd like to interview JesusfuckingChrist. I'd like to put that motherfucker up against the old wailing wall and watch him wail."
"You've got it!" I said to myself. Then wrote the scene into Second Coming, a screenplay I was working on about the return of Jesus to the Lower East Side.
When I finished the first draft I sent it to him. A week later, when we got together to watch the game, he glared and waved the script at me. "This is funny stuff, man. Very funny stuff. If you get if off the ground, I'll do it!"
Watching the Pats flush his spread down the toilet before the first half was even over, he half-heartedly asked, "So who's gonna play Jesus?"
"You know Paulie?"
"Oh yeah, I know Paulie alright. We go back aways. He interviewed me on his radio show in Boston, back in '67. Ask him if he wants to improvise with me."
"You don't wanna do the script the way it is?"
"Don't get your auteur in an uproar. I love the script, I really do, man, but I'm thinkin' if we improvise off the spine, we'll stick to the story, but you really might get some magic down. I don't remember exactly what happened when I did his show, but I do remember there was some big magic between me and Paulie!"
"Ok, sure, why not. Paulie's shooting something in Toronto now, so there's no time to rehearse anyway. We'll do the scene, next week, as soon as he gets back in town. I'll give him a call and pass on your invitation."
I thought Paulie was the greatest actor of his generation. Recognized or unrecognized. Though my so-called French producer didn't exactly agree with me. "There is no way Skkkkki-doo is going to hap-pen on this man's dol-lar," Jean Philip swore. "I never forget the night after theatre in Jimmy Ray's he eat the shot. Stand on top of bar and grind up glass with his teeth, then swallow the shards."
"That old trick. Which night did you see it? He usually does it once a year in honor of Jimmy Dean. He's taught a lot of guys how to eat the shot, including Pacino. In fact, he taught Pacino every move he's got, and everybody knows it!"
"The man, he is a terror! He bites off Rip Torn's ear, just for the sport!"
"No, no, you're getting confused, JP, that wasn't Paulie!"
"Then he is the one that throws the dwarf to the sharks on Love Boat."
"No, no, he didn't do that one either!"
"Tell me then, why does Antonioni take lead away from him in Zabriskie Point at last minute?"
"Because Paulie got thrown in jail for burning his draft card live on his radio show in the Commons three days before the film was scheduled to start."
"You only like him because he play Barrymore in Bimbos In Paradise."
"Wrong! I've loved him in everything I've ever seen him in, particularly Artaud At Rodez. Barrymore was originally written for John Belushi to play, but as I recall you told me you thought Paulie's performance was 'transcendent of Barrymore.'"
"Yes, true, but that is before night he bites head off live chicken on stage!"
"Yeah, no getting around it, that was Paulie alright." Great performance right out of his Polish-Jew shtetl side, though unfortunately he could only do it once because it made his Irish side so enraged he vowed to give up drinking. Fortunately, the show closed after opening night, and he got drunk to celebrate not having to eat the fucking chicken again. But from that night on Paulie Skidoo was considered too dangerous for mainstream mundanity. I'd first heard his radio show while wandering around Boston, right after I got out of the Air Force in '66, wondering what I was going to do with my life now that I hadn't died in Nam. We didn't meet until years later, when he showed up to audition for the role of Barrymore in Bimbos after Belushi's maid blew him out of consideration by withholding the script from him. Though Paulie never played Hamlet, his rendition of Barrymore recalling his drunken London performance, 20 years after the glory, brought down the house. Though he claimed he had no desire to ever actually play Hamlet himself, he yearned to do Hickey in Iceman on Broadway, before giving up his bimbohood to become a writer.
I always told him, "No, not like me, man."
"Naw, fuck 'dat no! I mean, like you, bro!" the Irish side of his tough as nails mixed dog snarled. "You know why I love 'de way you write?"
"It brings back all your acid flashbacks?"
"Naw, bro, it's because you refuse to speak in 'de language of 'de enemy."
"Aw, gee, thanks. . .I think."
"Don't thank me, bro. You'll probably die broke in 'de gutter because of it, but have no fear, a few of us'll know what you were made of, if we haven't gone down 'de tubes before you."
Needless to say, Paulie had agreed to play Jesus as a favor to me. Abbie was going to play Abbie interviewing Jesus as a favor to me. A lot of people were doing a lot of things as favors to me. Hardly anyone believed this was an opportunity to do anything but do a favor for me, which is how indies got done in those days. Like it or not, Second Coming was going to be made with or without Jean Philip's fucking money, honey.
I was rehearsing with my actors. Turning my actors into my characters. My leading lady, who we'll call Lois of Arc or Lois of Lane, was anything but Lois of either, but definitely a potential star in her own demented right. Half the time she looked at me when I was talking to her, I was sure she hated me and wanted to kill me, the other half of the time I was sure she loved me and wanted to kill me, because she couldn't handle losing control of her emotions. Not knowing which side of the coin she was on at any given moment was teaching me how to dance. A whole new dance. A dance full of turns, dips, bobs, weaves, and more ducks than you could find flying south for the winter. Anytime she, or anyone else for that matter, walked towards me, I knew they were going to ask me a question I probably couldn't answer, so I turned, turned, bobbed, ducked and weaved. To the calm outside eye watching myself watch myself I probably looked like an epileptic trying to do the limbo, but despite the bad chemistry running through my veins, I was starting to get into the boogie of it all.
Whatever I was doing, for some reason Lois found it sexy. She asked me what her motivation was. Though she obviously already knew that her motivation on this picture was to make sure every male character in the picture, every male member of the crew, including yours truly, fell madly in-love with her before dumping on them in real life. To complete the femme fatale trifecta, her ego needed to just feel alive enough to emote at her highest vibrational level, she would naturally also have to nail the Son of God when he finally arrived on the set, or accept she had completely failed her first shot as a leading lady. You could see it in her eyes.
The director was nothing more than an obligatory scalp to hang on her clit. Though she had more behind what was behind the green door than just notches; there was the matter of her hair, for instance. Lois wanted to wear her hair up in this picture, because in all the B-slime she'd been in so far everybody wanted her to wear her hair down like she was some Dallas Cowboys bimbette, so she had to remind me she only took this role because she thought it was a serious role that she could use to show her serious side. "I love the script," she gushed as she unzipped my fly, "but..."
BUT but BUT but BUT. . .I was meeting Paulie at Grand Central. We had two weeks work to do in three days and I didn't have time to be in Lois' movie and direct my own at the same time.
"Do you feel like Jesus?" I asked Paulie when he got off the train.
"I feel like shit on a stick, bro. It was a nightmare up there. The fuckin' DP drove me pyscho - kept rammin' me with the camera on the close-ups. Don't sweat it though, I'll make the transition for ya. I just need a drink or two to get loose."
"Did you get my message?"
Paulie's face, which was basically indescribable, was etheric in the most angelic sense, totally lacking any trace of ethnicity except for a Jaggeresque lower lip he could twist, turn, bend, probably even juggle and play paddle ball with if he'd wanted to. It gave him the uncanny ability to look like a pouting six-year-old at one moment, and look 106 the next. He probably could've played both Peter Pan and the 101-year-old Jack Crabb in Little Big Man without putting on makeup.
"So Abbie wants to improvise. . .does he," the old Crabb pondered. "How do you feel about him circumventing your script, bro?"
"If you're cool with it, I'd like to see what the two of you can do. If it doesn't work, we'll do it again."
"You know I like to do things in one take, bro, but I'll give you two, maybe three, if we can spar again like we did last summer. Or was it two summers ago?"
"Shit, I don't know! It could be three. I've completely lost track of time."
"It probably saved your fuckin' life, bro."
"No doubt! I couldn't have made it through the breakup if you hadn't dragged me into Gleason's."
"Well, I need you to do it for me now. Gotta get rid of 'de anger before I turn 'de water into wine."
Two hours later I was bobbing and weaving for real. Jesus was trying to take my fucking head off its shoulders. When we had sparred before I was in so much internal pain over Jesse waking out I didn't feel a thing. Now I realized this was more than just me repaying Paulie for allowing me to work out my demons, it was Paulie in the middle of a brutal intra anti-Semitic fight between his always drunk, but gorgeous Irish Ma and his always drunk but ambitious Polak Jewish Pa. He had been stuck his whole life between the two of them, but now was alternately playing first his Ma, then his Pa, whichever one of them was throwing leather at the other. My role was much simpler. And more dangerous at the same time, alternately playing whoever the punch was being thrown at.
"FUCKING ROMAN POLANSKI!" his ma yowled at his Pa, as he charged me.
I was snapping the left out there to keep the little rat dog off my ass. Trying to avoid taking the beating Harry Greb gave Gene Tunney once long before he became famous for surviving Dempsey in the Long Count. Trying to avoid getting an early liver transplant, trying to avoid stepping out of the ring and having a drink myself, I would have done almost anything to avoid splitting my fucking pissed off star's fabled lower lip right down the middle like an overripe cantaloupe, but the fucker was pushing my ass.
"Tell me, you pussy," his Ma snarled, "why is it you people have never had a heavyweight champion."
"YOU PEOPLE!" his Pa snarled back. "Whatta ya call Slapsie Maxie Baer!"
"CHOPPED LIVER!" his Ma growled, and threw a definite low one that I just managed to turn my hip into at the last moment. "What about an NFL MIDDLE LINEBACKER?" she screamed at the top of her lungs as she threw a haymaker from Fenway Park, then hit me flush in the nose with a forearm smash when I ducked under the punch. "YOU PEOPLE never had a Middle Linebacker, you were all too busy in Hebrew School to get your yid asses dirty!"
"YID ASSES, my ass!" his Pa screamed, as I wiped the blood running down my face, danced back and then suddenly came in again, slicing open his lip with a bolo punch from Kid Gavilan!
It was getting ugly now. Real ugly. Paulie's Pa was calling his Ma a drunk Irish potato slut, roaring at her, "Your Pope and all his Cardinals are panty sniffing faggots, Margaret! Panty sniffing faggots!" She deliberately tried to kick his Pa in the nuts.
"The fucking balless Jews own Hollywood, and won't even let you in long enough to rip you off! THEY KILLED JESUS!"
"Jesus, Margaret, Jews always kill other Jews!" his Pa laughed. "That's just show business!"
At that point, I realized before she started biting in the clinches, I'd better get my own two cents in, and yelled, "What about a rabbi from Nazareth? We had a rabbi from Nazareth who was a carpenter and on the side still had time to hit over .400 in the Lord Buckley League, when they let him in the game."
Paulie stopped punching and grinned. "You talkin' about 'de Naz?"
I pointed my glove at his bloody face. "You 'de Naz, baby!"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm 'de Naz. I'm 'de Naz." He started pounding on his heart as the blood ran down his chin, dancing around the ring, throwing punches everywhere but thankfully at me, before going into his Lord Buckley riff: "Look at all you cats and kitties out there! Whippin' and wailin' and jumpin' up and down and suckin' up all that fine juice and pattin' each other on the back and hippin' each other to who the greatest cat in the world is! I'm gonna put a cat on you who was the sweetest, grooviest, strongest, wailinest, swinginist, jumpinist most far out cat that ever stomped on this sweet green sphere, and they called this here cat The Naz, that was the cat's name."
Paulie was ready to play Jesus.
Whether the world was ready for Paulie to play Jesus was a different story.
And whether Abbie really wanted to interview Jesus was the tip of the schvanz of that story, so to speak. We were setting up to shoot in front of a live audience at The Village Gate. That way we got a house full of extras, and Abbie could use the shoot for a fundraiser for his show at the same time.
They walked out on stage from opposite directions like two gunslingers, and almost psychically bowed to each other before sitting down.
(pouring a glass of water for his guest and one for himself)
Well, if it's not the King of the Jews. Funny
you don't look like any pictures of Jesus Christ
I've ever seen.
(taking a drink)
I thought you were the King of the Jews.
But then you don't look like any pictures
of Abbie Hoffman I've ever seen either.
(rubbing his new nose)
(taking a drink)
Look, I don't really expect you to believe
me. In fact it, it's almost a relief that you don't.
I wouldn't say I'm Jesus if-
If you weren't cast in the role.
There's no denying I feel obligated to play
out my role, but as you know good and well
it's a lot easier to be thought of as a fool or a
crazy than it is to live up to so many diverse
expectations. I'm gonna save you, man?
(taking a drink)
Well I hope you'll do a miracle, at least.
At least one. But later.
A Miracle to be named later? I can buy that.
But what rights are we trading for the miracle?
Old expectations. No big loss. They're ready
to be put out to pasture anyway.
I don't mean to squeeze you on this, but if you're
Jesus, as you claim, why can't you perform miracle
after miracle until the world is cleaned up.
Because I'd burn out. Some people thought when
you got busted you deliberately fucked up so you
could go underground because you were burned out.
(taking another drink)
Is that so?
Some people thought that, yes. Some people thought
Dylan faked his motorcycle accident because Farina
did it first, and took the fall for him. You of all
people should understand all miracles are is energy,
all we are is energy. If I use it up
it I'm like a dead battery. It's not that
miracles are limited
I suppose you're going to get your energy back when
we're off the air. Terrific miracle, folks,
missed it, wish you were there but we were off the
air. Take my word though, it was amazing!
(taking a drink)
I can understand your skepticism. The world is full
of phonies selling bogus hope--
But you're not one of them?
There is no hope, there's just energy.
Ok, just a few more questions, then we're going
to open up the floor to our audience. Now assuming
you are Jesus and you've reincarnated, why did you
choose now to do it?
I didn't choose. That's a fallacy that you choose
your reality, choose your parents, that you have
a choice at all.
What we have is the illusion of free will within the
confines of whatever script we've been given at
the beginning of time.
Freedom's what you do with what's been done
to you, right?
Something was happening, but I didn't know what it was, Mr. Jones.
If there's free will, yes. But if there's only the
illusion of free will, I don't think so. I'll
an example: If I told you somebody dropped LSD
in what you were drinking, what would you do?
Acknowledge the miracle of psychedelic
(takes a big drink)
This is exactly the kind of double talk I expect
from some guy claiming to be the Messiah.
Sure. I'm just like you are, Abbie.
Have you always known you were Jesus?
Have you always known you were Abbie?
C'mon, man, don't try to outsmart a smartass!
Answer the question!
I've always knew, but only when I couldn't forget.
Why would you want to forget?
Well, until I got the actual role in this movie,
I was afraid.
Let me get this straight: You were afraid before
you got this role? What were you afraid of?
Oh, that I wouldn't have the guts to get you back
for slipping me acid when I interviewed you on my
radio show in '67. That I wouldn't have the guts
you back for encouraging me to burn my draft card
while I was tripping - even though I was already 4-F.
(looking out in the audience for me,
but not folding)
So the name of your game is blind man's bluff?
The same as yours. I'm afraid of making the same
mistakes over again. Failing because I've been
misinterpreted again, being exploited, being used
as a symbol of peace in order to promote war. . .
And now you're not afraid?
I'm terrified, but I have to deal with it.
And how are you doing that?
The same way you are. By being on this show.
But you know, Abbie, I wouldn't slip you acid
without dropping it too!
Paulie, you fuck! You really did it!
(sticking out his lip)
I've been waiting 20 years to get you back,
"CUT!" Almost as soon as the word came out of my mouth, I felt a
hand tapping me on the shoulder, and there was plain clothes cop standing
behind me holding out his badge.
"Lt. Zen Cohen. . . Can't this wait? We're shooting a movie, Lt.!"
"You can't give me five measly minutes to help me find a fugitive?"
"Who are you looking for?"
"Don't you think it's strange I have an Canadian warrant for your leading man, and you're asking me who I'm looking for?"
"Gimme a second," I said, then turned back to my wildly tripping gunslingers, and yelled, "Great take, guys! You had me goin' there for awhile. But if it's cool with you, let's take five and do it again, but this time, just to be safe, let's stay as close to the script as we can. Ok, back in five.
"Now Lt.," I said, turning back to him, "who did you say you were looking for?"
BROKEN NEWS || CRITIQUES & REVIEWS || CYBER BAG || EC CHAIR || FICCIONES || THE FOREIGN DESK
GALLERY || LETTERS || MANIFESTOS || POESY || SERIALS || STAGE & SCREEN || ZOUNDS
©1999-2002 Exquisite Corpse - If you experience difficulties with this site, please contact the webmistress.