Tim Russell: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye.
(THEME UP AND OUT)
Garrison Keillor: It was January and it was cold in St. Paul so I was looking forward to going to Philadelphia and then it turned out to be even colder there. Due to a hot air front in Washington pulling cold air down from Greenland. I was there at the behest of a woman from Philly who was having a problem with large men in shiny double-breasted suits.
Terry Gross (ON PHONE): My name is Sandy Beach, Mr. Noir. I'm a singer-songwriter.
GK: Sandy Beach--
TG (ON PHONE): It's pronounced Beach but it's spelled b-i-t-c-h.
GK: Oh right. The princess of punk. You're with the band Bad Parsnips.
TG (ON PHONE): I was with Bad Parsnips but then I went with the Vacuums and now I'm in A Desperate Circumstance.
GK: Is that the name of a band, A Desperate Circumstance?
TG (ON PHONE): No, it's a circumstance I'm in. I'm trying to get out of the Vacuums and we owe Shipwreck Records two more albums and I got some big knuckle-cracking goombah following me around and it's making me nervous. Do you think you can help? (BRIDGE)
GK: Call me old-fashioned but when a woman asks for help, I don't ask how or when, I get going. I read up on Sandy Beach on the plane to Philadelphia. She was on the cover of Falling Rocks magazine, pink hair sculpted to look like an exploding flamingo and her new album "I Don't Do Bathrooms" which hit platinum, and according to the article she was a hot item and Hollywood was beckoning. (BRIDGE) Sandy Beach's offices and studio were in south Philly, next door to the Philadelphia Trans-Fat Factory. The air was sort of shiny with fat globules rising and it tasted good when you inhaled. But the woman at the front desk didn't know I was coming.
SS: Miss Beach is busy, Mr. Noir. She's working on a video. She is fielding offers left and right. Movie deals, film deals, video games, and a Sandywood Amusement Park) -- (PHONE RING) Excuse me. (PICK UP) Beach Productions, Randy speaking. (VOICE) I'm sorry, she's completely tied up. (VOICE) No chance. No way. (VOICE) I'll call you if anything opens up. (HANG UP) How about a week from Wednesday, Mr. Noir?
GK: Okay, but I'm here because she asked me to come.
Sue Scott: Oh.
GK: And that calendar in your hand. It's blank. Tell her to get in touch. (BRIDGE) I walked down the street and stopped in at a hair salon -- The Curl Up & Dye.
Fred Newman: Oh, I've known Sandy for years. She comes in here every Saturday to have her hair chopped. I use pinking shears.
GK: So you do her hair?
FN: I've done her hair since she was a little folkie and she wore her hair down to her butt and she sang murder ballads and played the banjo.
GK: She played the banjo?
FN: You never heard her sing "The Schuylkill Tragedy" --?
GK: Can't say I did.
FN: Oh, it was awesome. She tore that Philadelphia Folk Festival to pieces. Listen-- I got it right here-- she was in a duet with a guy named Sandy Hill --they called themselves The Two Sandies (BANJO PLUNKING)
TG & GK: (SINGING) She took her knife and she cut out his liver, and threw him into the Schuylkill River. He was a rat, and she threw him in it, And the jury acquitted her in about one minute. (BANJO)
GK: Interesting. So she went from murder ballads to punk.
FN: Well, she took a detour into jazz but that didn't work out so good. She wasn't cut out to be a chantoozy. She got into punk with a band called The Angry Emilies. They were good--
(HIP HOP BEAT)
TG & SS (ON TAPE, DECLAIM):
I couldn't stop for death.
So death stopped for me.
He was really cool.
You might even say heavenly.
He drove real slow.
Through the rain.
He drove past the school.
And also fields of grain.
And then I saw his head
Was towards eternity.
I said, Hey, let me off.
This is far enough for me.
GK: Interesting. So where do you think I might find her?
FN: Well, she's been keeping a low profile since that guy's been tailing her. See him? Standing across the street? That's Sammy Samson. He's a goombah who got kicked up to the front office because he had a bad habit of whacking the wrong person. (BRIDGE)
GK: So I went across the street to accost the individual in question.
TR (RICO): Who're you, ya big yahoo? Don't stand there.
GK: I'll stand here as long as I want to stand here. Ever hear of the Liberty Bell?
TR (RICO): Yeah, and it's cracked. Just like you. Get out of my sun. I'm trying to get a tan.
GK: How come you're chasing around after Miss Beach?
TR (RICO): None of your business. (SPITS)
GK: Don't spit your pistachio shells on me, pal.
TR (RICO): Okay, then I'll move over here. (OFF) (SPITS)
GK: Answer the question.
TR (RICO): Hop in my car-- I'll take you to lunch. You can ride in the trunk.
GK: I don't want to ride in the trunk. How come you're bothering Miss Beach?
TR (RICO): Cause she got a contract to do two more albums for us and otherwise there's gonna be trouble. You hear what I'm saying?
GK: She's an artist, Sammy. She said what she had to say and she wants to express herself some other way than by making albums for a bunch of jerks like you.
TR (RICO): Listen, gumball. We ain't in the business of expressing ourselves. We're in the business of selling units of product. You hear what I'm saying? You want to express yourself, talk to the hand. If I don't move product, my boss is going to express himself to me. He's going to take me for a ride in a boat with a couple buckets of fresh concrete. You get my drift? (BRIDGE)
GK: I met Sandy at a coffeeshop around the corner (INTERIOR AMBIENCE, VOICES OFF, SOME TABLEWARE). I could see Sammy standing across the street, in the sun.
TG: I'm sick of the music business, Mr. Noir. Record stores don't exist anymore. Radio stations are all programmed by computers, record companies are only interested in huge hits. One bad album and you're history.
GK: But you and the Vacuums sold a ton of albums.
TG: I know, but I'm tired of being Sandy Beach. Tired of wearing bullet belts and black denim and torn t-shirts and hoodies. And having all this metal in my face.
GK: You've got quite a lot. Does it bother you?
TG: Of course it bothers me.
GK: The tongue plug?
TG: I hate it. The eyebrow rings, the lip rings, the earrings, the nose plug, the cheek plugs -- I went into my mother's fridge the other day and all her magnets just leaped at me.
TR: Hi, Sandy-- what can I get you?
TG: Coffee for me. Black. About you, Mr. Noir?
GK: I'd like a triple venti 2% latte with a pump of chocolate.
TR: A pump of what?
TG: It's okay, Rocky.
TR: Venti? Who was he? A middleweight?
TG: He'll have a coffee too. Light.
TR: Okay. Why didn't you say so in the first place? (WALKS AWAY, MUTTERING)
TG: This is South Philly, Mr. Noir. The five-dollar cup of coffee hasn't caught on here yet.
GK: So what do you want to do, Sandy?
TG: I want to write poems.
GK: I thought you did. "School kills -- it can knock you dead. So watch out what they put in your head. Walk tall and be free. And don't buy into their history." That's not poetry?
TG: I'm all over that, Mr. Noir. It's time to move on.
GK: Where you going?
TG: The Curl Up & Dye. Come on. (BRIDGE. DOOR OPEN, JINGLE, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS.)
FN: Hey-- looky here-- my my my. Have a seat, hon. I was just thinking about you. Thinking we ought to try doing your hair neon green in a deathhawk. What do you say?
TG: I don't think so, Hank. I've decided I want to be strawberry blonde.
TG: I don't want it to stick up on top. I want it to be shaped around my head. A pageboy.
FN: But you're an entertainer! You ain't Nancy Pelosi!
TG: And I want you to snip all my attachments.
FN: Your rings? Your plugs?
TG: Take them off. All of them.
FN: This is a serious career move, Sandy. But okay.
TG: Do it fast before I change my mind.
FN: Okay. Here goes. (SIX SNIPS. THREE POPS) There. Gone. Feel better? Sandy? Sandy? (SLAPPING) Sandy, wake up.
GK: Just then Sandy's agent Randy walked in--
SS (APPROACHING): --she's got some major deals going-- books, movies, packages, there's a reality show in the works-- tours --oh my gosh-- I'll call you back, hon. (CLICK) Oh my gosh-- honey, what have you done?
TG: It just wasn't me anymore.
SS: Honey, you looked so sweet in pink hair. Why blonde? Don't try to be Katie Couric, they already got one.
FN: Don't look at me. She made me do it.
TG: I'm not that person anymore. I'm a poet.
SS: Hon, I just signed you to a quarter-million dollar contract with Philadelphia Sliders.
GK: What are Philadelphia Sliders?
SS: You never heard of Sliders??? Oh. Right. You're from Minnesota. Philadelphia Sliders are sausages stuffed with cheese. They're great when you've had a lot to drink.
TG: A quarter-million? Just for singing a jingle?
SS: That's what agents are for, hon. Extortion.
TG: I can't do it--
SS: What do you mean, you can't do it?
TG: I can't do it. I'm sick of business. I want to breathe free. I need independence.
SS: They got a big hall full of it -- you can go look at it whenever you like.
TG: I can't sing about sliders--
SS: You used to sing about wanting to throw your boyfriend off a bridge!
TG: I'm over it. I want to write love poems.
SS: Love poems!!!
GK: What you got there, Miss Beach?--
TG: Just some poems.
GK: Like what?
TG: Well, for example --
You are the hot dog that goes with my beer.
I'm always happiest when you are near.
I dream of your kisses, I long for your touch.
Today is your birthday. I love you so much.
GK: Uh huh.
TG: It's coming from a whole other place for me-- I'm going off in a totally new direction.
SS: Are you intending this as a sort of a retro-pop thing -- a kind of satiric deconstruction of the whole Fifties thing?
TG: No. I'm not.
It's been five years since we met,
A day I never will forget.
That mysterious someone whom
I glanced at across the room,
A glance that was more than cursory.
I love you. Happy anniversary.
GK: Well, it's different, all right. Somewhat lighter than "School Kills" --
TG: It's not all light. It's about love.
Someday we'll travel, you and I,
Far across the cloudless sky
To a place serene and calm
And there we'll sit beneath a palm
Beside a peaceful blue lagoon.
Sorry you're sick. Get well soon.
SS: (PAUSE) You don't need an agent, kid, you need a reliable wastebasket.
TG: I knew you wouldn't understand--
GK: So this is your new direction--
TG: Irony is dead, Mr. Noir. Sincerity is the new irony.
SS: I'm outta here. Bye bye. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)
There is a road we all must take
By the woods and frozen lake,
The lovely woods of Robert Frost.
My condolences on your loss.
GK: Well, I'll try to explain to Sammy that you've moved on creatively. Good luck with your poetry.
TG: Thanks. Good luck with your-- what is it you do?
GK: I'm just sort of a narrator. (BRIDGE) I looked outside on the sidewalk but there was no Sammy, just a pile of pistachio shells where he'd been standing. So I hopped in a cab to the airport. (TR EGYPTIAN) Right, to the airport. I'm flying Doctrine Air. (TR EGYPTIAN) The driver was nodding in time to the music and I asked him to turn up the radio and there was Sandy and her band The Vacuum.
Miss Mary Mack, all dressed in black,
With silver buttons down her back
She asked her mother for fifty cents
To see the elephant jump the fence.
They jumped so high it touched the sky,
And didn't come back til the fourth of July.
TR (EGYPTIAN): (GIBBERISH, ENDING IN "SANDY BEACH")
GK: Well, you can say that again. She sure is.
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but one man is still looking for the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye.