TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but on the 12th floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions--..Guy Noir, Private Eye. (MUSIC DOWN)
GK: It was May, spring, I was just getting my sense of smell back, able to tell tulips from toolboxes and lilacs from Ex-lax, and then I got a call to come down to Nashville. The Country Music Hall of Fame. Elvis's banjo was missing.
SS (ON PHONE): It was on display along with his microwave toaster oven and somebody just walked off with it.
GK: I had no idea Elvis played banjo.
SS (ON PHONE): It was the great passion of his later years. He had just recorded a banjo gospel album when he was taken from us.
GK: I don't know country music, ma'am. I'm a jazz man myself. Mostly I sit around listening to dead black men.
SS (ON PHONE): Could you come down and help us? Please. (BRIDGE)
GK: I love the South. And Nashville especially. People are so mannerly. (CAFE AMBIENCE)
FN: Hi. Haw you all doin?
GK: The waiter in the little cafe at the Stonewall Jackson Motor Lodge was a sweet man.
FN: Here's your fried eggs, side of country ham in redeye gravy, and a side of grits----
GK: Just say that again for me.
FN: Grits?
GK: Say it again.
FN: You never heard of grits before?
GK: Listen, sir--- I'm on the trail of a missing banjo. You know any banjo pickers?
FN: Well, there's that girl over there in the booth. Earlene. (FOOTSTEPS)
GK: She had flaming red hair and long legs that just barely touched the ground and jeans so tight I could count the change in her pocket and she wore a T-shirt with a picture of the Ryman Auditorium----- pardon me, Miss, but do you play the banjo?
AK: I used to.
GK: What happened?
AK: I guess I just gradually got over it.
SS: Excuse me----- I'm her publicist ----- what's your name?
GK: Guy Noir's my name.
AK: Pleased to meet you. I'm Earlene Pickens.
SS: And I'm Miss Pickens's publicist, Ellen------ (BRIDGE)
GK: The publicist was an intense woman in black with laser optic eyes that went right through you.
SS: Earlene just finished a TV special, "Earlene Pickens, Live At The Ryman," sponsored by Uncle Bud's Hatchery, Breeder of Boneless Chickens.
AK: Uncle Bud is my daddy.
GK: I see----- Earlene Pickens. You've had some big hits, right?
SS: She's had enormous hits. Humungous hits. "Hostage of Love" ---- that was her gold album. "You've Been A Stone In My Shoe And Now I'm Walking Out On You" ---- that went platinum. And the latest one is "Wake Me Up When It's Over" ---- It went titanium. (BRIDGE)
GK: The publicist's cellphone went off (RING. SS: Yes? CBS? Right--..(SHE FADES) And I got to talk with Earlene Pickens, who was a sweet kid. Very polite. Told me her whole story.
AK: You see, my Daddy is in the chicken business and that's how I started in show business, all dressed up as a chicken and playing "Cluck Old Hen" on the banjo. We traveled around and did shows off the back of a pickup truck in supermarket parking lots. I came up the hard way, Mr. Noir. Wearing a fifty-pound chicken suit and walking up and down the aisle in front of the frozen food section, picking the banjo and singing "C-h-I-c-k-e-n, that's the way you spell chicken, friends" ----- it kind of makes a girl want to grow up and sing jazz.
GK: Jazz-----
AK: Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to go on stage in a black dress with a scoop neck and stand with a microphone in my hand and sing-----
GK: Listen, kid-----
AK: And now I can. My daddy's chicken business is doing about two billion dollars worth of business a year, thanks to genetic engineering.
GK: Uncle Bud's is a two-billion dollar business?
AK: They bred a boneless chicken. Has no feathers and the organs are all external so it's easy to clean. It's like an enormous breast with a head. Stock prices quadrupled. And now I can afford to sing anything I want to. (SINGS) I love Paris in the springtime--..I love Paris in the fall-----
GK: Honey, country singers don't sing about loving Paris. They sing about loving all sorts of things but Paris isn't one of them.
AK: I've been thinking of doing something real dramatic. For publicity. I've been thinking about it ever since the Super Bowl.
GK: Hey, wait a minute-----
AK: I'm going to do a special at the Ryman this summer; "Earlene Pickens sings Edith Piaf"-----
GK: Hey----- your initials are EP, same as Elvis Presley. -----Did you have a banjo with the initials EP on it?
AK: Had ten of them. Gave them all to my daddy. (BRIDGE)
GK: I went to see Earlene's father at his enormous chicken factory outside Nashville. (LOW CLUCKING)
TR (BUD): This is our boneless chicken right here. (BONELESS CHICKEN) World's first boneless chicken. (BONELESS CHICKEN) Got no bones. Pure meat. No waste. And it's easy to clean. Got no feathers. We engineered the feathers right off it. And the feet, too. Having feet was a waste of energy. This chicken ain't going nowhere.
SS: Hi. Haw yew?
TR (BUD): This here's my wife, Clarissa. Earlene's mama.
SS: Kin I bring you something cool to drink, mister----
GK: Noir.
SS: Noir. That's a French name, I believe.
GK: It can be, yes.
SS: We went to France once.
GK: I see.
SS: Once was enough for me.
GK: Uh huh.
SS: Earlene, she feels different, but I was not impressed, frankly. The Eiffel Tower ----- we got TV towers down here as big as that. Pffffff. (BRIDGE)
GK: The smell of Earlene's perfume stayed with me and when I turned in for the night I had a dream about her----- (DREAM CHORDS)
AK: What'd he say?
GK: He says, "He kneels at your feet and he kisses your hand."
AK: It's such a beautiful language.
AK: It thrills me in ways I cannot describe.
GK: Earlene, I don't mean to rain on your parade, but ----- when you fall in love with France, you're sort of burning your bridges as a country music star.
AK: Oh Guy ----- Guy ----- can't you see how I feel?
GK: About Paris?
AK: About you-----
GK: Me?
AK: Oh, I know. You're thirty years older than I and not attractive by conventional standards and yet----- (CORKSCREW AND POP OF CORK AND FIZZ OF CHAMPAGNE AND POUR)
GK: Earlene------ I never felt this way about a banjo player before.
AK: I don't want you to think of me as a banjo player, I want you to think of me as a woman.
GK: Is there something standing behind me?
AK: There's a big boneless chicken, Mr. Noir. And there's Elvis picking a banjo.
TR (ELVIS): How y'all doing here in Paris----- mind if I play y'all a little number? You ever hear Jimi Hendrix' "Purple Rain" played on the banjo----
GK: No------ no-------- no------ please. (CHICKEN SINGING "PURPLE RAIN" WITH BANJO) No----.no------(REVERB ON GK) No-------- please------- no--------------(CITY STREET AMBIENCE)
TR (COP): Sir------ Sir--------sir--------
GK: What? Where am I, officer?
TR (COP): You're hanging onto a lightpole in front of the Ryman Auditorium, sir, and you're in your pajamas and your pillow is all torn apart and you're covered with feathers.
GK: I had a bad dream.
TR (COP): I'd like you to blow into the Breathalyzer for me, sir----(BRIDGE)
GK: He let me go back to the Stonewall Jackson and then of course I couldn't wake up the night clerk (SNORING) ----- Hey! Sir! (GLASS BREAKAGE) Sir? (SNORING) Excuse me. (SNORING BEING SHAKEN) Sir---- I hung him upside down by his heels. (SNORING) I held his head in the tropical fish tank. (SNORING UNDERWATER) Nothing worked. So I spent the night on the couch in the lobby. And there she was on the TV screen, Earlene, doing a commercial for chicken in a Bordelaise sauce.
AK: (SOFTLY, ON TV) Brown the chicken lightly in butter -----and pat it with a paper towel -----to remove excess grease. Add a quarter cup of champagne to the skillet------ and bring to a boil.
GK: She sure brought me to a boil. I never did find Elvis's banjo and I never saw Earlene again but I left Nashville with some fine memories. And with better manners. So how you all doing today?
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but on the 12th floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions--..Guy Noir, Private Eye. (MUSIC DOWN)