Tim Russel (ANNC): And now. Rainbow Motor Oil and the Rainbow Family of Automotive Products brings you: The Story of Bob, a Young Artist.
Sue Scott: Have some more cheese salad, Bob. You've hardly touched yours. And those cheesy roll-ups. And the chow mein fritters. I made those specially for you.
Garrison Keillor: No thanks, Berniece. I think I'd better stop.
ER: You don't have the flu, do you, Bob?
GK: It's not the flu, Berniece. I'm just nervous because I'm expecting a very important phone call.
(DOG PANTING, THUMPING LEG, COLLAR JINGLING)
ER: I know. From that big Hollywood producer. Mr. Dogbark.
GK: It's Dagmar, Berniece. Mr. Dagmar. Not Dogbark. -- You know if you'd give that dog a bath, he wouldn't scratch like that --
TR (POPS): Oh go stick your head out the window.
GK: All this dog dander in the air, I've gotta take antihistamines for my allergies, it's no wonder I can't think straight.
TR (POPS): Thinking never was your strong suit, Bob.
GK: And now I've got this phone call -- this could be the most important phone call of my life!
ER: That's right. It could be.
TR (POPS): I'm expecting an important phone call too. Bert's calling me up from the VFW -- I'm running for sergeant at arms. Hope I got elected. (DOG BARKS, PANTS)
Is it sergeant OF arms, or sergeant AT arms? I forget.
ER: It's sergeant at arms, I think.
GK: If Bert calls, don't get in a big conversation about your colons and so forth--
TR (POPS): You want to hear about my colon?
GK: No, I do not.
ER: Now Bob, just settle down. You sure you don't want more cheesy rollups-- got chow mein fritters too-- does Mr. Dogbark like your new screenplay, Bob?
TR (POPS): Screenplay! I'll show you a screenplay. Get a couple of sock puppets and crouch down by the screen door. Do a little show right there. It'd be better than Bob here ever wrote.
GK: Thanks for the vote of confidence, Pops.
ER: Tell us about your screenplay, Bob. What's it about, anyway?
GK: It's about the absurdities of life. What can I say? It's a hero's journey into the unconscious through the absurd situation in which he lives. I'd really rather not talk about this right now.
ER: Well what's the movie called, Bob?
GK: It's called Trammelling the Abyss, ok?
ER: Trammelling the Abyss. Interesting. (DOG GAGGING) What's wrong with Rex?
TR: Donno. Must've choked on something. Easy boy. Spit it up.
GK: You're gonna let him throw up on the carpet?
TR: It's okay. He'll eat it right up.
GK: Could you take the dog outside, please? (DOG GAGGING)
TR: Spit it up, Rex. Let go of it, boy. Cough it up.
GK: Berniece, could you step in here?
ER: He's just feeling a little out of sorts.
GK: I eat a couple of cheese rollups and then I've got to see a dog puke on the floor.
TR: Then don't look, dummy.
GK: The sound is disgusting enough. (DOG BARKS)
TR (POPS): There. All better.
ER: Bob might be moving to Hollywood, Pops. Won't that be exciting?
TR (POPS): You ain't gonna get me to go to Los Angeles. Let me make that clear. (DOG PANTING, THUMPING LEG, COLLAR JINGLING)
GK: Well you wouldn't have to go Pops. It would just be me.
ER: But what about us, Bob?
GK: You could come and visit.
ER: You need us more than you know, Bob.
GK: Berniece, I'm forty-three years old.
ER: Forty-six. You still need us.
TR (POPS): Turning your back on those who helped you when you were nothing but trailer trash. It's the old story. (WHINING).
ER: Now Pops -- anyway, I'm all excited for you, Bob. I really am. I'm sure your screenplay will be made into a movie and it'll be a big hit. What do you think, Pops?
GK: If you could just be quiet when Mr. Dagmar calls, I would appreciate it.
ER: Well of course, Bob. We won't utter a peep. Right, Pops?
TR (POPS): Not that easy to get going. Someday you'll find that out.
ER: Okay, let's quiet down, Pops.
TR (POPS): If you two would stop yelling at me, we'd be just fine.
(PHONE RING SEQUENCE)
GK: That's him. Everybody be quiet.
TR (POPS): I was perfectly quiet until you two started in.
GK: Could you please just be quiet-
TR (POPS): You're the one making the noise, wide ride.
GK: Wide ride?!?!
ER: Now Pops, don't pick on Bob. This is a very important phone call.
TR (POPS): Then answer it, Mister Genius. (DOG BARKS) -- now you're getting Rex upset.
ER: Do you want me to answer the phone for you, Bob?
GK: No! Don't touch that. (DOG GROWL)
TR (POPS): Pick up the phone, dummy.
GK: Just everybody be quiet, please! For just one second!!! You people just don't understand what a writer goes through. (PICK UP PHONE) Good afternoon. Berger residence. This is Bob. How may I help? (VOICE) Mr. Dagmar, so good to hear from you. (VOICE) You're what? (VOICE) Oh, lovely. I'll be right down. -- He's at the front door!!!
GK: He's at our front door. He's just getting out of that black limo. With that -- who is that?
ER: That young blonde woman in the black pantsuit?
GK: Oh my gosh. (RUMMAGE SFX, GLASS, BANGING, CLUTTER BEING CLEARED) Hurry hurry hurry-- (DOG BARKS) get the dog out of here-- get this stuff off the table-
ER: Stick this under the couch!
GK: Just throw the stuff down the basement stairs--
TR (POPS): What's the big hullabaloo? Let the man in.
GK: Throw it down the basement stairs-- (BIG CLATTER OF STUFF GOING DOWN STAIRS) There-- and those boxes too. (DOWN STAIRS)
(KNOCKS ON DOOR)
GK: We're coming! Oh boy. Look, there's dog hair all over. (FOOTSTEPS) Oh well, nothing to be done about it. (DOOR OPEN) Mr. Dagmar! Good to see you.
Martin Sheen: Mr. Berger-- good to meet you. This is my assistant, Penelope Pembroke.
Erica Rhodes: Pleased to meet you.
MS: We were going to set up a meeting in Los Angeles and then-- I had to fly to New York anyway so I told the pilot to set down here -- I tried to call you on the cell from the car -- May we come in?
GK: Yes, of course. The house suffered some damage in the tornado on Wednesday but we're getting it cleaned up.
ER: Well, hellooooo. You must be Mr. Dogbark.
GK: It's Mr. Dagmar. And his assistant.
ER: I can tell you're from Hollywood --
MS: Oh really--?
ER: It's your nice skin tone and also that's a very very expensive job of hair coloring. It's really good. It almost looks real. And also I can tell because you're traveling with a woman who's thirty years younger.
ER: Forty-three, actually.
ER: You don't look forty-three--
ER: I'm forty-three years younger--
ER: Well, let's invite our visitors in, Bob. Where are your manners? Huh? Come on in, folks. Never mind the clutter here. -- I've been meaning to sort out all these pictures here-- and the figurines-- my aunt Joan gave me those when she went into assisted living -- she loved Chinese figurines--
MS: They're lovely--
TR (POPS): Who's this?
MS: I'm David Dagmar. And this is my assistant Penelope Pembroke.
TR (POPS): Assistant, huh? Heh heh heh. Yeah, right.
GK: Pops, shut up. Take the dog out.
TR (POPS): Just thinking out loud.
GK: Take Rex out for a walk, Pops, or I am going to kill you right now with this letter opener and don't make me do it. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY, POPS GRUMBLING, DOG BARK) (DOOR OPEN, CLOSE) (PAUSE TWO BEATS)
ER: All right. Something to drink? Iced tea? Coffee?
MS: You wouldn't have bottled water, would you? Non-sparkling?
ER: No, but I could put some water in a bottle for you.
MS: I'll have coffee.
ER: I will, too. With two percent--
ER: Two percent. Sure. Of course. (FOOTSTEPS OFF)
MS: So-- we loved your screenplay "Tramelling the Abyss," Mr. Berger-- Penelope pulled it out of the slush pile and told me I had to read it and she was absolutely right --
ER: It just had so much life in it. There was so much vitality.
MS: That's what we loved about it was the vitality. You have a great ear, Mr. Berger. You have an uncanny facility for dialogue.
MS: Yes. So much dialogue that we come across is -- it's-- I don't know--
ER: It's wooden. Predictable.
MS: Exactly. But you-- your writing--
ER: It has this wonderful sort of jumpy quality--
MS: So many screenplays it's just back and forth, back and forth, like pingpong--
ER: (SIMUL) But yours has a real sense of spontaneity -- it just feels real -- like real life --it's amazing how you get that -- it's so edgy--but edgy in a good way-- it's so real-- (PAUSE A BEAT)
MS: Miss Pembroke?
MS: Anyway, we loved "Tramelling the Abyss" and we'd like to put it into production.
GK: Oh wow. I can't believe it. Production. Oh my gosh.
ER: Okay. Coffee coming up!!! Let me see-- you wanted two percent, right?
GK: They're going to produce my screenplay, Berniece.
ER: I found some two percent but it'd been in there for awhile so you might want to smell it or something. It goes bad pretty fast. If it leaves a sort of scummy residue on top of the coffee--
GK: Berniece, they're going to produce my screenplay.
ER: --then I'll just pour you a fresh cup. I had a friend who drank bad milk in coffee once and she was hugging that toilet for two days--
ER: It's nothing to fool with, food poisoning. What is it?
GK: Berniece, they're going to produce my screenplay.
ER: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. (CLATTER OF TRAY BEING SET DOWN SUDDENLY) Oh my gosh. Is it time for some hugs? I think so. (SHE HUGS ER) Oh that is just so wonderful. He is forty-six years old and this is the first nice thing that ever happened to him. I am so happy.
MS: Well, it's a wonderful script -- and we just have a few little comments--
ER: He has been writing like a house afire for twenty three years -- poetry, journals, novels, cantatas -- he went into the visual arts for awhile, did collages -- Bob, go get some of your collages and show them -- they're wonderful -- O I am so happy about this -- I am going to get on the phone right now and call Mrs. Bartlett down at the Arts Council -- O she is going to be so please-- (FOOTSTEPS OFF, THEN RETURN) A Hollywood movie!!!! Our Bob!!!! Oh Mr. Dogbark, I just have to give you a big-- (BIG MWAAAAA AIR KISSES) -- there. Okay. Don't mind me.
GK: She gets excited. Sorry.
MS: Right. Anyway, we have just a few notes we'd like to give you before we have to leave. Just a few little thoughts about the screenplay -- We were hoping you'd be open to that. (HE SIPS) Interesting coffee. Where's it from?
GK: Notes? What kind of notes?
MS: Well instead of having it be a hero's journey in the unconscious mind, we were wondering if you'd be willing to make it into a kind of-well-small-town girl in the big city looking for love kind of thing. And we'd like to put in some shopping. I think that that whole kaleidoscopic surrealistic scene with the old man and the talking lady and the dog -- I think we could easily make that into a shopping scene, and maybe cut it down from, what is it now?
ER: Thirty-four pages.
MS: From thirty-four pages to -- say-- two? It'd have the same energy, that same real-life quality, but we'd open it up so instead of being stuck inside that little house where the hero is going insane, we'd be moving through a series of shops -- like, in a mall...
ER: And then there's Mrs. Ratchet--
MS: Right. We think that Mrs. Ratchet plays a little old-- she's what?
MS: She's fifty-six, and we're thinking something more like -- I donno -- just thinking out loud here-- seventeen.
GK: Uh huh.
MS: Try it. I just think it might play better. And I'm seeing the demented old man as more of a father figure. We just think this could be the sort of picture that fathers could bring their daughters to. And talk about later in a book group.
GK: A book?
MS: There would be a novelization, yes--
ER: But we'd keep that whole feeling of the Quest and that edginess, that sort of jumpy energy that you have in there-
MS: (INTERRUPTS) -- that vitality, that indefinable Here We Are Looking At Life quality -- (CONTINUE)
ER (SIMUL): -- that incredible sort of jumpy energy that you've got going on here-- (CONTINUE)
MS: --which I think is a matter of ear, and which you have, you really do-- God, I loved this thing-- (CONTINUE)
ER: -- which gives us this whole incredible sense of a world that is changing and going to pieces right before our very eyes, you can feel the heartbeat of these people, you're so much in the moment, so much caught up in the flow of the thing, in this whole surge -- this whole --Onwardness-- the sense of movement-- of headlong tumbling and bouncing and clattering down the slope--
MS: Miss Pembroke--
MS: We're thinking seventeen, eighteen. And she desperately wants a baby. And the shopping is really a metaphor for that.
ER: Metaphor of that.
MS: It's a metaphor. And the hero is romantically involved with her. But he's confused about it. And we'd like to change the location slightly. I don't think Minnesota really works here. Too remote. Too cold. So we'd like to put it out in the SF Valley. Kind of an upscale neighborhood. I just think that visually it's going to work better for the audience. But we'll keep the dog. We loved the dog. The dog was perfect.
(DOOR OPEN, POPS & REX ENTER, MUTTERING, DOG BARKING)
GK: Oh boy. Here we go again.
ER: Bob? Anybody need more coffee in there? (FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)
TR (POP): Rex had a good dump and he's feeling better. Now it's my turn, I guess.
MS: You write so beautifully, Bob, This would be a minor rewrite for you. A week, two weeks, turn around.
ER: You've got the energy there, we're just channeling it......
TR (POPS): Where's the mineral oil, Berniece?
ER: Why you two didn't even touch your coffee. What's going on? Oh, I guess you got so engrossed in Bob's screenplay, you didn't notice. Well, I'm going to make a fresh pot so if you prefer decaf, just speak up--
GK: I just think that you're trying to change my vision here.
MS: We're trying to protect your vision, Bob. And make it available to a wider audience.
TR (POPS): If they're offering you the big bucks, remember we need a new water heater, Bob. Where's the mineral oil?? I left it right here.
GK: Look, I appreciate your interest. Stopping by here--
MS: It's more than interest. It's support.
ER: We think you're an important new voice in Hollywood, Bob. We think you have something unique--
MS: We're trying to protect you from people who'd destroy the dream.
GK: I don't know. What about the title?
MS: The title's not important. We can work with that.
GK: "Tramelling the Abyss"--
MS: A title is a calling card, Bob. That's all it is. It's the ring of a bell. Memorable. That's what we're looking for.
ER: We're sort of thinking "Shopping The Canyon"--
MS: Just an idea. We've got a dozen others. We'd love to hear yours.
GK: I sort of like "Trammelling the Abyss"_--
TR (POPS): Rex is sick again, Berniece. Where's the kaopectate?
MS: Anyway, we'll be in touch-- we'd better go, Miss Pembroke-- let Bob get back to writing--
SS (OFF): Where's the what?
TR (POPS): He's barfing again.
ER: We just want you to know that there's so much that is genuine in this script-- which we are going to defend --absolutely-- (CONTINUE)
MS (INTER): That's right. Your style -- that whole energy thing you've got going here-- I like to call it "crunchiness" -- we're not going to lose that-- (CONTINUE)
ER (SIMUL): I mean, we would never kill that -- that is the heart and soul of your gift, Bob. That's your writing. We're not going to destroy that, that whole edgy, contrapuntal, multilinear thing-- It's perfect, of course we'd keep it. (CONTINUE)
MS (SIMUL): That's you, that's who you are -- I was just telling Miss Pembroke on the plane out here -- how this works on so many different levels-- I just fell in love with it. (CONTINUE)
ER: Get some newspaper!!! He's going to stain the rug!!!! Which one of you uses the 2 percent????
TR (POPS): I think the kaopectate is upstairs. I can't go up there -- my knees are killing me.
GK: Would you please try to be quiet? We're having a meeting?
ER: (CONTINUOUS) --it's a dialogue that, to be honest with you, I assumed was written by a much younger person, it just has that jumpiness to it, that quick shift of direction, that intuitivity-(CONTINUE)
MS: (CONTINUOUS) -- It's rich, it's complex, I read it all the way through in one sitting and I just fell in love with it. That doesn't happen often with me. I mean, I read a lot of scripts and this one-it just spoke to me--shut up Miss Pembroke.
MS: I said, shut up. You're not the producer. I'm the producer. You're just a blonde with a briefcase. Get real.
ER: I'm not going to sit here and take that--
GK: Look. Let me think about this.
TR (POPS): (OFF) You mind if I sit down here? My back is killing me. My gosh, it hurts.
ER: (OFF) How about some cheesy rollups with the coffee?
MS: I didn't hire you for your brains, Miss Pembroke--
ER: Yeah, you got more than you bargained for--
MS: I hired you because I've got clients who like to look at women like you--
ER: I've saved your butt twice in the past two days.
MS: Blondes with briefcases are a dime a dozen, Miss Pembroke. Don't get all self-important on me.
ER: Doing drugs for twenty-eight years killed off some crucial brain cells, Mister.
MS: Get in the car, Miss Pembroke.
ER: And that's why I've been having to take your hand off my shoulder twenty times a day.
MS: Get in the car. And give me my cellphone.
ER: You're pitiful.
MS: Get in the car.
ER: You don't need an assistant, you need a registered nurse.
ER: Excuse me--
GK: Berniece, please -
MS: In the car, Miss Pembroke-- what is it?
ER: Well, I'm not an agent or anything, but I'm just curious, since you like Bob's screenplay and everything and you want him to rewrite it, if maybe you aren't going to -- you know -- pay him some money or something? (PAUSE) No? Did I say the wrong thing?
MS: We don't have a script yet, Miss--
ER: But he sent you one--
GK: Berniece, please--
MS: It's not ready yet. He needs to tweak it a little and we've given him some notes and he'll do that and now we've got to get to New York. Miss Pembroke--
ER: I'm sure it's going to get made-- as Mr. Dagmar was trying to say, it's got so much vitality--
MS: "Trying to say" -- okay, that's it-- you're out of here--
ER: -- it's got everything a script needs -- it's got great dialogue -- and it's got conflict--
MS: Conflict???? What are you talking about???
GK: I don't mind rewriting, it's just that--
TR (POPS): (OFF) Easy, Rex. You sit and rest now. You feeling better?
ER: Want me to spell it for you? C-o-n-f--
MS: It's got no conflict whatsoever. Not a bit.
ER: You said just a minute ago--
MS: Shut up. This script is a big mess of nothing and the only reason we're here is-- because I love you.
ER: You love me???? Oh please--
ER: (OFF) I hope I didn't embarrass you, Bob, talking about money--
GK: I'm not sure what the story is, so I don't know--
MS: I don't know how it happened. It just happened-- "Love walked in and drove the shadows away" --
ER: You really need those Zolofts to keep you level. You really do--
MS: I came here because I'm quitting the business, Penelope. I'm done. I'm going to buy a house in a small town just like this one and live here with you and have your baby. Or you have my baby.
ER: Oh my gosh. It's like the worst script you ever read in your life.
ER: (OFF) I mean, somebody's gotta mention money, right?
GK: Maybe it'd help if I got some distance from it-- I donno.
MS: I want to mow my own lawn, Penelope. Clean my own house. My life is a lie, Penelope. It's nothing but twisted values and I want to take you to the Midwest-- and live a life that means something--
ER: Who is writing your dialogue? Huh?
TR (POPS): Whoops. Spoke too soon. Looks like he's getting the dry heaves.
MS: You love me. I know you do.
ER: Oh my gosh. I wish I had this on tape. Listen to it--
MS: I'm not wrong about this. You care for me. I know it's a stretch. I know it won't be easy.
GK: I like "Trammelling the Abyss" -- I think it's catchy. Don't you?
ER: They're taking up your time, Bob, they ought to pay you for it--
TR (POPS): I don't know what he ate unless he's been eating squirrel pellets again. Rex? You okay?
MS: It'd be a rough first year. I know that. I'm a realist. But our lives would get better and better.
ER: I'm calling your therapist. Right now. You're having a manic episode.
MS: And we wouldn't be trapped in this cesspool of arrogance and ambition--
GK: I think the odd title could be a real asset. I mean look at -- you know the movie I'm thinking of -- what was the name of that movie?
ER: I don't mean to sound materialistic or anything, but we really could use a new rug in the living room--
MS: Listen to your heart, Penelope. Listen to your heart.
ER: I'm listening to my brain, thank you very much.
MS: I'm reaching out -- don't turn away -- you'll regret it.
Paula Poundstone: Hey! Remember me? Your driver. I've been sitting in the car for an hour. You said ten minutes. It's been an hour. I gotta pee so bad, I'm seeing yellow. Where's the pee shack?
ER: You mean the bathroom?
PP: Whatever. And nobody poke me or I'm going to be all over you. All over. (DOG BARK) That includes you, ya mangy mutt. Boy, I have never had to pee this bad since I was in the third grade. Am I grossing everybody out? Sorry. (DOOR CLOSE)
GK: I'm not going to rewrite "Trammelling the Abyss" -- I'm going to be true to my vision.
MS: I don't care. I'm not in the business anymore. I'm going to move to Minnesota and raise a family.
TR (POPS): No money for a water heater. Guess we'll have to take showers at the neighbors.
ER: When we get to New York, I'm going to get back into theater. I mean it.
ER: Would anybody like more coffee? I made a fresh pot.
TR (ANNC): The story of Bob was brought to you by Rainbow Motor Oil and the Family of Rainbow Automotive Products.