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November 1970

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Great Expectations or The War of the Worlds (With thanks to Harold Pinter, or was it Charles Dickens?)
A ONE ACT MELODRAMA TO BE PLAYED BY MARIONETTES



CAST OF CHARACTERS GROOVY BUTCH JOE COCKER The time is someplace in the fairly near future, damn nearer than you think. At curtain rise, we see what is by today's standards a totally hip pad. It is crowded with cultural symbols of our time: a large inflatable vinyl Campbell's Soup can, numerous Peace symbols, doves, clenched fists, a black-and-white poster depicting rhinos fornicating, Lyndon Johnson playing Clyde while Lady Bird - also holding a machine gun - plays Bonnie, a "Make Love Not War" fresco done with Pepsi Cola bottle tops on a background of a tattered American flag drenched with fake Mercurochrome blood. The floor is littered with at least 7,000 copies of Screw, Rat, The East Village Other, The Realist, et al. A somewhat dusty paper Tiffany lamp advertising Heinz 57 Varieties of Pot dimly illumines the scene. Naturally, we are deafened by an enormous wave of Acid Rock. Joe Cocker is screaming incoherently, With a Little Help From My Friends. At curtain rise, the stage is empty. We dimly perceive this between red, white and blue flashes of a revolving psychedelic strobe generator, which seems on the verge of blowing a fuse since it hums a lot and occasionally throws sparks onto the burlap-covered floor. We, the audience, observe this scene for 30 seconds or so and then, entering from stage right to the sound of an offstage john flushing, is Groovy, as he is known along with various other pseudonyms. His actual name is Herbert L. Mergenweist, a onetime student in the far distant past at the Bronx High School of Science and several other doubtful institutions of learning. His hair hangs nearly to his waist and seems to be a cross between the old Joan Baez cascade and a ratty Afro. It is streaked with gray. He has a noticeable bald spot. He wears an ancient, tie-dyed T-shirt bearing in faded letters the legend, WBAI UBER ALLES; worn, hacked-off jeans and an elderly pair of Victor Mature-type Roman sandals, festooned with bits of corroding chain and brass studs. He is sniffing and seems to be having a slight nasal problem, as his nose runs noticeably. He discerns that the stereo is hung up on a groove. Cocker keeps yelling, "wit de help wit de help wit de help wit de help wit de help..." A look of pained irritation crosses Groovy's face as though this has happened to him a million times before. COCKER: (continuing) wit de help wit de help wit de help wit de... (Groovy speaks, or rather mutters.) GROOVY: Fuck! COCKER: (continues)... Wit de help wit de help wit de help. (He seems to be getting louder and more hysterical, if possible. Groovy rushes across stage, coughing brokenly, and kicks his battered old stereo amplifier, which is on the floor next to a crate of paperbacks. The stereo squawks, and Cocker begins to shout.) COCKER:... Friends friends friends friends... (Meanwhile, Groovy has crumpled to the poor, removed one sandal and is rubbing his foot and weeping silent tears. He replaces sandal painfully and crawls on all fours across the stage, looking for something. Without warning, the stereo begins working again and Cocker goes into the bridge, blaring loudly. Groovy, scuping among worn, faded copies of Screw, Rat, et al., finally finds what he's been looking for a book of matches. He sits slwnped against his wall at stage right, under a large poster of Peter Fonda astride a motorcycle. He searches in his jeans and produces a minute roach, which he proceeds to light, eyes shut, inhaling deeply. He sits for a second holding the smoke in and then suddenly bursts out in a loud, uncontrollable par-oxysm of wheezy coughing. There is a knock at the door. GROOVY: (listlessly) Yeah? (Enter Butch, as he is known to a dwindling few intimates. He is, in actuality, Dwight L. Dingleman. He is somewhat older than Groovy. He wears a worn-thin pair of narrow-bottomed chinos; an ancient, blue, basket-weave button-down shirt; a thin, black knit tie with a large Windsor knot, decrepit bucks, shoes that have seen many sea-sons. His hair, what there is of it, is resolutely crew cut, and he is far beyond mere graying. He wears a madras sport coat, single-button, which is so old you can almost see his shirt through it. He carries a bundle. He speaks casually, comfortably, as though they have done this many times.) GROOVY: Come on in, Butch. BUTCH: How's it going, pal? (Groovy ignores this, allowing his shoulders to droop in disdain. His whole being exudes put-down.) BUTCH: Gee, it's good to see you... Uh... Groovy. (He says the name "Groovy" awkwardly.) GROOVY: You're late. I thought I was gonna freak! It was mind-fuckin' me. BUTCH: I'm sorry. I know how you feel. I got held up down at Medicare. I was getting jumpy, too. It's been three days. GROOVY: (slumping into inflatable vinyl chair, which has been patched many times with rubber cement and vulcanizing patches) Three days! Shit, man! It seems like a month. Let's get dawn to it, before I really blow my mind. (He coughs brokenly and rubs his injured foot. Butch carefully seats himself on the Campbell's Soup can, placing his package beside him.) BUTCH: Where do you want to begin today? GROOVY: (thoughtfully) Well, we did the Drug Scene number last week. Uh.... (he trails off in thought) BUTCH: And the week before that we did the Acid Rock bit. How 'bout Lack of Communication? We haven't done that in a long time. GROOVY: (brightening) Heavy, man! It's been a couple of months. My head's getting together already. Okay, you start. (Groovy stands up and begins to pace nervously, as though he wishes Butch would leave, radiating truculent impatience. Butch watches him for a long moment.) BUTCH: (finally speaking, with great deliberation) Why don't you get a hair-cut? For the life of me, I can't under-stand why you let your hair grow like that. You look like a girl! Why, when I was a boy... (Groovy whirls on him in fury.) GROOVY: Look, now you see, it's just things like that...! (He lapses into silence after shouting. Butch watches him, a look of beseeching, groping on his face, as though trying to understand, yet pained by what he sees.) GROOVY: All the kids wear their hair like this! It's different from when you were a kid! Everything is different, don't you understand that? The Bomb! BUTCH: (quietly) And those ridiculous clothes. If your mother were ali GROOVY: (rising to crescendo) That bitch! She never loved me! All she ever wanted to do was watch television all day long, and... BUTCH: Don't talk like that about your mother! GROOVY: Hah! Just because she got knocked up and... (He slumps suddenly into his chair, his voice drops back to normal.) Dimmit, Butch, I can't get started today. It's not coming. BUTCH: I was starting to work. I could feel that old anger coming back. You wanna start over? GROOVY: (scratching his stomach disconsolately) Yeah, might as well. I sure as hell need it. No shit, Butch, I don't know what the hell's happening to the world. My God! They don't even listen to rock! They just sit around all day and listen to that... Noise! They don't have any standards. No values. These kids of today don't even think about hair, much less care about it. Jesus Christ! When I was a kid, you were nothin' unless you had at least seven pounds of matted electric hair. They don't even care any more. I can't get nobody even mad, which shows they really don't care. Wow, when I was a kid... (He trails op moodily, running his fingers through his scraggly, graying mane.) BUTCH: Why, you are a kid. Why, you've hardly turned 50. (A look of anger crosses Groovy's face.) GROOVY: ( menacing.) Look, how many times have I told you... BUTCH: (hastily) I'm sorry. I forgot. Your generation doesn't recognize years. GROOVY: There's only Now, God-damnit, only Now! Y'hear that? (He screams wildly) I'm ONE OF THE NOW PEOPLE. THERE'S ONLY NOW! BUTCH: (nervously loosening his tie) Now, Groovy, son, don't get excited. I was only trying to help. Maybe we shouldn't do anything today. Maybe... GROOVY: (crossing over to Butch and patting him on the shoulder) I'm sorry. I guess we better start easy instead of going right into the Hair thing. That's one thing I just don't understand today. They just don't care about hair. BUTCH: I still do. You make me mad every time I see you. I want to grab you, give you a shampoo and cut it all off. Make you look like a human being. GROOVY: (patting his arm) That's okay, Butch. It was a nice try. I guess I just don't feel it today. BUTCH: Well, haw 'bout you starting? Maybe if we work the other way today, like the time you got at me for liking Scotch. Boy, that was a great day. I felt good for weeks afterward. Haw 'bout you starting? GROOVY: (shuffling across stage pensively, stroking his beard) Okay. Lemme think. Uh... How's this?... Uh... YOUR WORLD IS DEAD, YOU HEAR ME? DEAD! VIOLENCE AND JOHN WAYNE AND MONEY IS ALL YOUR OLD DEAD WORLD BELIEVED IN! MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR! MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR! (The last two lines are screamed in a demonstrator-type chant. Groovy rushes over to the corner of his room, digs among the rubble for a few seconds and comes up with a sign. It is old and has seen much use. The handle is taped and has been patched up. It is, in fact, ancient. It reads: FASCIST PIG! FREE THE BLACK PANTHERS! Butch rises slowly in anger from his chair, his face reddening.) BUTCH: Why, you long-haired fag! You pansy! What you need is a good bath. They oughta draft every one of you crummy rotten Hippie bastards. A good first sergeant would straighten you guys... (Groovy has now hoisted his sign high and is marching about the room, shout-ing.) GROOVY: FASCIST PIG, FASCIST PIG, OINK OINK, FASCIST PIG, FASCIST PIG, OINK OINK, FAS-CIST PIG, FASCIST PIG, OINK OINK! BUTCH: I'LL SHOW YOU WHO'S A FASCIST PIG, YOU FAG BASTARD! GROOVY: FASCIST PIG, FASCIST PIG, OINK OINK (He makes Peace sign with free hand.) BUTCH: Beautiful, beautiful! I haven't seen that in years. You're really getting it now, Groovy, you're swinging. GROOVY: OINK OINK! BUTCH: TURN THAT GODDAMN NOISE DOWN! You call that crap music? Just a lot of banging around. You can't even understand none of them words. JOE COCKER: (screaming) I'll get HIGH, GRAAAAK... I'll get HIGH... GRAAAAK... I'll get HIGH GROOVY: Oh, Christ, what a time for that Goddamn thing to get hung up. Son of a bitch! (He throws his sign at the stereo.) COCKER: GRAAAAAK .. (Stereo now silent, Butch, his face still red with anger, returns to his seat, sits down heavily.) BUTCH: Whew! That was as good a session as we've had in months. That was damn near the real thing. GROOVY: Right on! Just like the old days. I'll never forget one day outside the UN, hack in the good algal clays. Jerry Rubin was there. Oh, man, what a scene! BUTCH: (his face lighting up) Jesus, Jerry Rubin! I ain't heard of him for years. Boy, he used to rea11y piss me off. GROOVY: Yeah, those were the good old days. BUTCH: Yeah. (They both sit silently for a moment, contemplating the glorious, wonderful past, each lost in his own world.) GROOVY: (somewhat nostalgically) Hey, Butch, you'll never guess what I found today. (Butch, still drifting quietly in a dream of old wars, merely grunts. He scratches his gray crew cut. Groovy stands some-what arthritically and peers at his psychedelic light for a long moment.) GROOVY: You wouldn't believe it. I found a place down in the Village where this little old tailor makes real bell-bottoms. Jeez, they're outtasight. The kids of today ain't got no style. He says that Paul Krassner comes around once in a while. He's getting on, but he's still trippin' out. BUTCH: You're right about the kids of today, you know. It's hard to believe it... None of these so-called kids hardly ever even heard of the Generation Gap. They don't know what they've missed! GROOVY: (riffling; among the ancient copies of Screw, Rat, The Realist on the poor, speaks thoughtfully) That ain't nothing, Butch. Hardly any of 'em even heard of Woodstock! And them that has think it's funny. They make fun of it, like those ridiculous marathon dances and stuff. BUTCH: Now hold it, Groovy. Don't start knocking marathon dances. Re-member, I don't knack Woodstock. GROOVY: (his long, graying mane drooping disconsolately over his shoulders as he slumps at his table, head in hands) You know what happened to me the other day? I'm walking dawn the street, and... Well... (He trails op, his body racked with sobs.) BUTCH: Come on, Groovy. We all go through it. I went through it when your crowd put down Pearl Harbor Day and Okinawa and... Go ahead, tell me what happened. I went through it, re-member? GROOVY: Well, this so-called kid was walking behind me, and he said to an-other kid, "Hey, there's one of those old Soul Jiggers!" And then, Butch, they both laughed, and... (He trails off and appears to be fumbling for a match in his jeans. He finds it and tries to light what's left of his roach. He coughs violently.) I can't... Smoke as much grass as I used to. Gets me in the throat. (coughs) HACK HACK. BUTCH: Yeah, I know. I can only have one finger of Scotch a day, and I'm really not supposed to have that. GROOVY: And then, Butch, you know what he said? BUTCH: No! Don't tell me. GROOVY: Yeah. He said, "He's one of those old Love Generation freaks. Boy, the one thing I'm never gonna do is get old. Man, I can't stand old people." (Groovy ends this sentence with a sob, lowers his head to the table. Butch pats him on the shoulder.) BUTCH: Don't worry, Groovy. You get used to it. GROOVY: (sobbing) But I'm a Youth! My generation invented Youth! We are Youth! Who the hell are these phonies? My generation invented Youth. They don't listen any more. BUTCH: Yeah, I know. My generation invented Guilt. And who cares anymore? Jesus, those were the days. God, I can remember when every editorial, every record, every play, every book, every cartoon did nothing but tell you how rotten guilty you were. God, it was great! You don't know how good it feels to have everybody tell you that you, personally, ruined the world. Man, that's power! (Butch is excited at this point, obviously exulting in and savoring his guilty past.) God, I remember one day when five SDS activists tied me up in my swivel chair and took turns hitting me with rubber hoses, all the while hollering, "Kill for Peace." One kid knocked the cap off this back tooth. (He points to tooth.) And another grabbed my ear with a pliers and... God, it was great! GROOVY: Stop! I can't stand it! Those were the days. These idiots today never heard of Warhol, or... (He trails off.) BUTCH: Yeah, but you never heard of Peggy Lee, or even Dizzy Gillespie. GROOVY: Now look, Butch, don't get sore. Remember, we're in it together. We can't start fighting now. We're about the only survivors left of the old Generation Gap war. We can't start hassling. BUTCH: Yeah. We need each other. You can't have no Communication Gap without me. And how the hell can I have any guilt without you? GROOVY: Yep. You old bastard. You never could understand Soul. BUTCH: Horse shit. You never could understand swinging. (There is a pregnant pause at this point, and then Groovy, staring straight out at the audience, speaks in a low voice.) GROOVY: Yeah, but they don't under-stand either one. We only got each other, Butch. BUTCH: What the hell do they understand? (He suddenly brightens as if he has remembered something.) Hey, Groovy, wait 'til you see what I got. It cost me an arm and a leg and then some, but... GROOVY:(laughing' sardonically) Holy Christ, "an arm and a leg and then some." I haven't heard that expression since my Old Man left the scene. Arm and a leg. Wow, man, you talk like an old Pat Boone movie. BUTCH: (ignoring him) I came across it in Brooklyn, in this shop a little old lady runs. I couldn't believe it! (He carefully unwraps his package on the table, obviously afraid of breaking what is inside.) Look, there it is. How do you like that? A genuine, mint-condition Little Orphan Annie Ovaltine shakeup mug! GROOVY: Yeah, I guess it's all right if that's where your head is at. Wait'll I show you what I just got. This'll really turn your head around. A real head trip! (He rushes over to orange crate and scrambles amid the paperbacks and with a great flourish whips out an object.) GROOVY: (announcing triumphantly) A genuine, working, absolutely authentic Spiro Agnew watch! BUTCH: My God, I'd almost forgotten. The Silent Majority! Let's use that in our next session. We haven't even touched on the Silent Majority. I forgot all about it! GROOVY: (getting excited) Yeah, I'll dig out my old IMPEACH NIXON buttons, and I got one that shows Agnew with a pig face, and... BUTCH: This is gonna be great! I'll bring my hard hat. GROOVY: You got a real hard hat? BUTCH: Yep. It's yellow. It's got an American flag on it. GROOVY: (excitedly) Oh, wow. ZAP! And I'll dig out my Viet Cong flag, and we'll... BUTCH: (his voice tense with anticipation) I got a bumper sticker that says, AMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT. And I'll... GROOVY: Don't tell me! Surprise me. I can hardly wait. It'll be like the good aid days again. When people really hated with style and life had meaning! BUTCH: And you can hit me with a rotten egg, and I'll... GROOVY: Don't spoil it! Let's wait 'til the next session. Outtasight, man, it's starting to happen already! BUTCH: You're right, Groovy. Say, does that Agnew watch say 10 minutes after 10? Already? My doctor says I have to get to bed by 10 o'clock every night, and... GROOVY: Yeah, I can't stay up as late as I used to either, what with my sinus headaches and.... (Butch rises, carrying his shake-up mug, dodders to the door and pauses before the threshold.) BUTCH: Groovy, can I play my Harry James records at the next session? GROOVY: Great, man! That'll really bug me. (Butch opens door and departs. We hear him from onstage.) BUTCH: See you next week, same time, and if you really get jumpy, give me a call and we'll fight over the phone. GROOVY: Let it all hang out, babe. I feel together again. (Butch leaves. Rock booms out. Groovy squats on floor, a lonely, aging figure, fumbling for a match. He lights his roach and coughs a wheezy, rasping phlegmy hack as THE CURTAIN FALLS)


Copyright: 1970 National Lampoon

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