Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Love's First Kiss"

Following on from last week's blog, I'd like to share another script.
Please enjoy.

[Pulls Up Barstool, Adjusts mic, etc.]
[Reads from script]
Thank You!
I’m Rusty Pliers.
You might remember…
I told the story about fellatio last time..
Thank you.
I told that story from the heart.
Tonight’s story is also from the heart.
But has no fellatio.

[Clear throat.
Big breath.
Be Rusty …]

It’s called…
Love’s First Kiss”


In 1967 (when I was 14 years old)… the flutist of the Olive Vista Junior High School orchestra was Stephanie Poznanski.
I was in the orchestra too, playing second trumpet.
It may surprise you to learn that the second trumpet in a large junior high school orchestra doesn’t play his instrument constantly during a song. There are many times in classical pieces particularly where you just sit and wait
It was then that I would look longingly at Stephanie Poznanski
She sat across from the brass section, down at the front with the woodwinds.
Sigh… She was so beautiful! 
With long blonde hair and a smile that was pure sunshine. 

[Act I]
Stephanie lived on a ranch in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley… where on this day I was visiting for the first time. 
My mom dropped me off and said be a good boy, Rusty.
But that’s okay… she always said that.
We had a nice time, Stephanie and me, listening to records and talking about school. She had a great sense of humor that made me laugh.
After some milk and cookies with her mom in the kitchen, Stephanie and I excused ourselves and went outside.
C’mon,”  she said, taking my hand. “I’ll show you the horses!”
We’d never held hands before. 

[Act II]
It was a warm afternoon. Dusty light beamed through the eucalyptus trees that lined the way. We strolled hand in hand beside an emerald pasture where prancing horses played in the sun. 
To my amazement, they trotted over at Stephanie’s call
“I thought only dogs could do that,” I said.
Don’t be silly,” replied Stephanie. “Horses are way smarter than dogs.” 
Now maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t… I’ve met people in the fifty years since who’ve argued it both ways… but I didn't care one bit because I was smitten all over with Stephanie Poznanski.
[Slight Pause]
I had very different feelings for horses though
In fact I was afraid of horses, but I tried to hide this from Stephanie.
I wanted to make a good impression.
“I like horses too,” I lied.
Really?” answered Stephanie. “Barbara from History class said you said you hated horses. ‘Big, stupid, smelly things,’ she said you said.”
That sounded like something I would say… 
[Full Voice, Trailing Off]
Not me!” I insisted. “I love horses! They’re so…so big and strong. You know … uh, horsepower and stuff…”
[Slight Pause]
Stephanie laughed at my foolishness… as Eve must have laughed with Adam in the garden… and my young heart grew wings and flew away…

[Act III]  
Then Stephanie stepped closer to me
Her blonde hair played about her face in the warm California breezes. 
Some strands of it caught in her mouth
With a laugh she reached up and hooked them away. 
[Slight Pause]
That’s when I asked if I could kiss her.
Okay,” she said. “If you want to.” 
She closed her eyes and lifted her chin. Her lips parted slightly. I could see her little tongue behind her teeth, waiting
“I want to!” I said.
Leaning forward I closed my eyes…
 … and our lips touched.
“Love’s first kiss.”
[Long Pause] 
Ah friends… kissing Stephanie Poznanski was like kissing an angel!
It was something else too, for as we kissed I began to feel a strange tingling sensation running up and down my body that eventually settled in my middle area.
Towards the front.
Mmmm-mmmm,” I said as I wrapped my arms around Stephanie and pulled her closer…

[Act IV]
At this Stephanie sighed…
… whether from boredom or love I’ll never know… for her father caught us kissing and boy, did he give me a chewing out!
Go to your room, young lady!” he ordered Stephanie.
“Stay right where you are, buster!” he ordered me.
He gave me a piece of his mind, you might call it, about Stephanie and her chastity.
Then he phoned my mother.

[Act V]
You’re too young to be kissing anybody that way,” said my mom, driving me home. “That comes later, honey, with love.”
Love! That was my mother’s cornball idea. 
I wanted romance and adventure
And let’s not forget the tingling sensation in my lower front, but I didn't mention that to my mom.
We weren’t doing anything wrong,” I said, hoping in my heart it wasn’t completely true.

Stephanie seemed to lose interest in me after that.
For which I mostly blame her father
Although for awhile I tortured myself wondering if maybe I was a faulty kisser or something
[Slight Pause]
As you can imagine Music class wasn’t as much fun anymore. All I could do was sigh and watch Stephanie from my place in the brass section, an impossible chasm yawning between us
Geez, I thought, it was just like Romeo and Julie
Rusty!” barked Mr Olinski. He was the music teacher. “Wake up! Please pay attention.”
“I wasn’t asleep, sir,” I objected.
You were giving a pretty good imitation of it,” quipped Mr O.  
The class laughed. Everybody liked Mr Olinski. 
“Now, young man,” he said to me. “Give me an f sharp!”
Alas, my tootling lips went wanting for warm human contact that semester and I had to make do with the cold, indifferent mouthpiece of my St Louie Brand b flat student trumpet.
I gave Mr Olinski an f sharp.
We moved to New Zealand at the end of the year and I never saw Stephanie again.


Thank You!
You made it fun!
I’m Rusty Pliers!

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Star is Porn!

This week I thought I'd share my script from the short story "A Star is Porn!"
I say script, because I rewrote the story as a performance piece specifically for speaking aloud..
Which I did at Stardust Video & Coffee in Orlando, Florida.
Last month sometime.
I hope you enjoy it today. 

[Reads from script]
Thank You.
I’m Rusty Pliers.
If you could please hold your, uh, applause,
until the end … 
I’d appreciate it.
Thank you.
(Laugh gently.
Clear throat.
Big breath.
Be Rusty …)
A Star is Porn!
How With the Aid of 
Kitchen Counter Serendipity
I Acquired the Non de Plume of … 
Rusty Pliers!


     It all started in the 1970s when I’d been bumming around Europe for a couple of years, trying to make my living as a film animator.
     I say trying to make my living as an animator because sadly, to be an animator in this world is to learn the true meaning of the term …
   …Art for Art’s Sake.
   So, when I was flat broke in Paris I answered a want ad in a Left Bank newspaper and, after a most memorable job interview (which unfortunately we haven’t got time to go into now)…
  … I was hired as an actor in pornographic films. 
  I signed a one-picture deal with a three-month option and they told me to be in Stockholm by the end of the week.
  That night, sitting alone on the train to Sweden, I stared out the window and listened to the wheels rolling rat-ta-tat-tat rat-a-tat-tat rat-a-tat-tat …  and I thought, not for the first time since becoming an animator…
   “What have I got to lose?”

[Act I]
[Eye Patch Gag Here?]
   So I found myself in Stockholm with my pants down… trying to make a buck, you’ll pardon the expression, the hard way.
   Ah, but the gods love a fool because while we were filming that week a wondrous thing occurred! 
   A thing called serendipity!
   It was during the kitchen counter fellatio scene.
   While my partner was down getting her close-up I happened to notice, just off-camera beside me on the counter, a pair of stainless-steel vice grips.
   They gleamed beautifully in the bright studio lights.
   Right then and there, serendipity struck me! 
   I introduced the vice grips into the scene.
   My partner, whose name was Heidi, found this quite stimulating so as the cameras rolled Heidi and I improvised with the vice grips while the crew looked on in amazement and, I like to think, in awe
[Slight Pause]
   The scene was very successful.
   Especially the happy ending.
[Pause to let it sink in]  
   We got it in one take
[Up Tempo]
   “VOILA!” cried the director, who was French.
   “Bueno!” added the asst director, who was Spanish.
   “My close-up, it was good?” asked Heidi, who was German
   “A star… she is born!” predicted the director.
   Only he didn’t mean Heidi.
   He didn’t mean me.
   He meant the vice grips.

[Act II]  
   That night I got to know the cast and crew a little better over a few drinks at Zum Franziskaner, an ancient pub just around the corner from the studio in downtown Stockholm. It was here, in the cozy beer cellar running up a ruinous tab, that I acquired the non de plume of Rusty Pliers.
   Everybody in the business had a non de plume, Heidi explained. Now that I was in the business, I needed one too.
   So we had a few beers and we thought about it.
   “How about Lonesome Orgasms?” I suggested.
   But nobody liked that one.
   “Bob Drillin?”  
   Nobody liked that one, either.
   After about the eighth beer the cameraman suggested Holden McGroin which made us laugh, but then guess what?
   Serendipity struck again and without thinking I said, “How about Rusty Pliers?”
   Everyone liked that, including Heidi.
   “Rusty Pliers,” she purred, trying it out in her luscious porno mouth.
   She said it suited me to a tee.

[Act III]
    At the wrap party later everybody predicted the movie would be a box-office smash. 
   “I smell a big hit!” said the producer, who was Hungarian. He liked it so much he picked up our options and gave the crew the green light to make a dozen more films. 
   That pleased everybody because, as I said at the beginning of my story… it’s a wonderful thing to find steady work in show business. 
   So, over the next three months we made seven toolbox movies in Stockholm, and four in Paris
   Oh. And one on the overnight train to Paris.
   That was a quickie, as we called it.
   They even hired a scriptwriter. You should’ve seen the crazy situations he invented to have a man with a toolbox arrive and fornicate repeatedly with a beautiful actress and / or her friends and the hand tools they so desperately craved!
   Oh boy! It makes me laugh to this day!
   (Sigh)… Show Business …
   … there really IS no business like it
    ….But no animal acts!
    I was very particular in that respect!

 Well, that’s the story of how Rusty Pliers got his name.
   If there was any kind of deep wisdom or high moral to be learned from this story… then this would be the place you’d expect to hear it, isn’t it?
   I’d like to thank you for listening
   It felt good to tell it. 
   To let it out, so to speak.
   You know, I’ve been calling myself Rusty Pliers for so long I can hardly remember what my real name ever was…
[Big Smile]
   But that’s okay … I like being Rusty Pliers!

Thank You!
You made it fun!
If you enjoyed my story,
Please follow me on social media.
If you didn’t enjoy it … 
… Thanks for not throwing things!
I’m Rusty Pliers!

[Time; Around 5 Min?]

Friday, November 6, 2015

Prologue to the 11th Re-Write

Being a writer isn’t easy.
Some writers work and struggle all their lives for their art, yet never find what you or I would call ‘success.’
Not me though.
I found mine on the backseat of a NYC taxi in 2007. 
Almost sat on it. 
It lay on the backseat, gleaming in the watery light which filtered through the taxi’s windows. 
A typewritten manuscript. 
“Where to, Mack?” asked the taxi driver.
“Lafayette and Bleeker,” I answered.
The driver grunted and put the car into gear.
As the taxi began moving I picked up the manuscript beside me. It bore no title. No author’s name or address anywhere on it, either. It was dogeared and well thumbed, with notes scribbled on the margins in soft blue pencil.
Over 500 pages. 
I hefted it. 
Heavy… with promise?
I turned down the volume in my earbuds and leaned forward. Dylan’s wail reduced to a whisper in my ears. 
“Hey!” I said to the driver through the thick plastic barrier that separated us, “This yours?”
“Huh?” he replied.
“You a writer?” I asked, raising my voice to get through the plastic and lifting up the manuscript for him to see in his rearview mirror. “You write this?”
His eyes in the mirror shifted to meet mine. Without turning around, he barked, “Do I look like a fucking writer, Mack?” 
I couldn’t see all of him from where I was in the backseat. Just his shoulders and the back of his head and of course, his eyes in the mirror. He had crazy eyes, wild yet fiercely focused, but every taxi driver in NYC had those. 
Occupational hazard, probably. 
He grunted again and his eyes in the mirror returned to the road ahead.
No, he didn’t look like a writer. From the back, with his pointy little head atop massive sloping shoulders, he looked more like an axe murderer. Especially with those eyes of his. But I couldn’t be sure, never having met one that I know of. This was New York City, though, where I lived on and off for twenty years, I could’ve met any number of axe murderers by now and not known it. 
New York City.
What a town!
Hell, I thought, I should write a book about it.
But that was my problem. 
I couldn’t write a book about anything.
I was a writer who couldn’t write.
Writer’s block, fear of failure, creative incompetence, call it what you will. It was that and more. As an author I’d spent my entire career farting around on the edges, never unleashing the artistic greatness I was sure was within me.
“You’ve got to shit or get off the pot!” my ex-wife used to say, for she considered my problem to be one of commitment. 
My lack of it.
Or was it that I ought to be committed?
It doesn’t matter now, she’s finally happy. She got tired of waiting for this great defecation of mine she so strongly urged, and soon after left to join the circus as a bareback rider and part-time fortuneteller (two occupations she was by nature ideally suited for), eventually becoming the mistress of The Great Scarletti.
He was the lion tamer.
He’ll need to be, I thought at the time.
But that was long ago.
We’ve all passed a lot of water under the bridge since then.
Now I’d found an abandoned, unpublished book.
I stared out the taxi’s window into the wet afternoon, wondering who had left the manuscript behind. And when? Only moments ago? And why no title? Who was the author? What was their story? Did they think so little of their work that they left it on the seat of a NYC taxicab?
To be found by me, a writer who’d give his soul for a good story.
Ha! Ha! How the gods love a laugh!
Outside, it was the usual afternoon traffic jam on Seventh Ave, compounded by the icy rain. We were going nowhere fast, so instead of telling the driver I’ve found something back here, and hearing him croak “Whadaya fucking want me to do about it, Mack?” I thought I’d just read a few pages of the thing and leave the driver to his driving.
I’d tell him about it later, when we arrived at Bleeker and Lafayette.
Besides, my curiosity was killing me.
So I started to read. 
It was a novel about a boy. 
There wasn’t anything remarkable about this boy. No great heritage or lofty ancestry. No display of childhood genius. Nothing to foretell of his accomplishments to come, if any. He was just a daydreaming kid from California who liked to draw. 
And then, just before his fifteenth birthday, he and his family moved to New Zealand. 
The other side of the world.
“Lafayette and Bleeker!”
“Lafayette and Bleeker. That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?”
I looked up from the manuscript. 
“This side of the street okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Thanks. What do I owe you?”
“Eight and a half bucks, Mack.”
I gave him a ten and took the manuscript with me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Magic Check-Out Card

So, it was agreed. 
With my mother in hospital my father needed my help. Therefore I would leave the M.O.W. immediately and start working for my father in his small animation studio.
They were sorry to see me go at the depot, they said.
But they’d get over it, they added with a laugh!
You should have seen the piss-up Uncle Pat organized for my send off! There was even a raffle with a side of beef (that fell off the back of a truck) as 1st Prize. Because of Pat’s renown, not just M.O.W. men but workers of every stripe from all over the North Shore showed up. The Poenamo Hotel public bar was packed! Ha ha! That was the night that Pat punched Ben! Oh, how I wished I’d seen that! Right in the middle of one of Ben’s racist rants, for Ben would say anything to anybody at anytime, Pat reared back and hung one on him that laid him flat! 
“I don’t care if he is the depot looney!” thundered Pat. “Nobody talks to me like that!”
Which was true. Nobody in their right mind spoke to Pat like that.
I missed it because I was in the men’s room on my hands and knees making a call to Ruth on the porcelain telephone at the time. 
“Ru-uth!” I croaked as I chundered down the line. “Ru-uuth!” 
Ye gods! How I hate to vomit. And oh! What shame I suffered, or would have suffered if I’d been sober enough to feel shame at the time. 
That would come later, Shame and its spiteful companion, Remorse. 
I’d like to be able to say that I made, at Pat’s insistence, a suitably moving farewell speech to my gathered workmates and raffle ticket holders that afternoon, but all I could do by then was drunkenly mumble incoherently and stare down at the floor, while Pat, who enjoyed speechifying, said a few words for me. I think. I can’t remember because I was as drunk as a fart by then, and had to call Ruth twice more before they finally carried me out of there!
After all, I was only eighteen. What did I know about drinking? 
Nothing, that’s what. 
Mick drove me home, so he told me later. I was passed out in the back. Our wives Ethne and Olive were waiting when we got home, very disappointed. We were all supposed to go out to dinner together, to celebrate my new career. They’d even got a babysitter, but now we couldn’t go because I was intoxicated. 
Beer, it’s not always your friend. 
After yet another call to Ruth (where did it all come from?) I collapsed into bed and thought to myself as the room spun dizzily round and round;
“I wonder what my destiny as an animator will be?” 

So I left the rough and tumble world of workingmen and the worksites to become an apprentice of film animation, working with my father in his tiny (one man) studio.
My lifelong journey as an artist had begun.
The studio was located on Anzac Ave in downtown Auckland, a little up the hill on the right in a large office building. Lounsbery-Ewing Productions dad called his studio, after his mentor and friend from his Disney days, John Lounsbery.
My dad had learned animation from this great genius of the art.*
Now though, instead of a genius of animation at his side, my dad had me.   
I began working with my father and to the surprise of us both, we enjoyed it. Not the animation part, it was no surprise that I’d enjoy that. Sure, it wasn’t easy, but I liked to draw, and was naturally persistent and patient, essential qualities in the manufacture of hand-drawn movies. I soon became obsessed with it, as all animators do. To see and hear your character think and speak onscreen is quite an intoxicating experience. An experience one never tires of!
And oh! The thrill of the rare occasions when one gets it right!  
Plus, I’d always loved cartoons. 
So I found it was fun. 
No, the surprise was not that I liked animation, the surprise was me and my dad getting along better, for since coming to New Zealand a few years before we’d always been at loggerheads. I was fourteen when we immigrated and found New Zealand strange and hostile at first. I suppose you could say that at the time I was a rebellious, awkward kind of son.
I’d left home and gotten married since then, had worked among men and learned a few things, even if I was still only eighteen-years-old. 
My father had learned a few things, too. He’d adapted to New Zealand and started a successful animation studio. He’d also lost a friend and partner, maybe when he needed her most, for my mother was desperately ill and would never recover. 
Yes, a lot can happen in a couple of years. Maybe I’d grown up a bit since leaving home, and maybe my dad had grown some too. 
After all, we never stop growing, do we?

Of course, animation was not unknown to me. Back in California as a boy I had watched my dad animate at his desk at home, flipping the drawings as he sketched up a scene. It was like watching magic. I’d stare up at him working, asking question after question until Dad showed annoyance, reminding me hadn’t I some schoolwork or reading to do?
Because, although I hardly realized it at the time, it takes powerfully intense concentration to animate with any chance of success.
(Oddly, I rarely connected my father to the wonderful magic of the Disney animated movies that he worked on, until years later when we attended a family screening of The Jungle Book at the studio prior to its national release. I was so proud when I saw my father stand upon the stage among the other gods who had created it. A beautiful moment that thankfully I was old enough to comprehend at the time… and appreciate all my life.)
 I’ve always loved to read. Even as a boy a book to me was a special thing. My father was sympathetic and he would often, when he worked for Disney and had access to the reference library at the studio, bring home a rare volume of animation art or an out-of-print edition of some movie star’s biography for me to read. He brought me books of all kinds from the studio. Books about artists, actors and comedians. Technical books about drawing and anatomy. Books about the moguls, the con-men and the hustlers of Hollywood, as well as the great artistes of the cinema.
“Thought you might enjoy this one,” he’d quietly say, as he handed me a volume on Selznick or Hitchcock or Chaplin.
“Have a look at the check-out card,” he’d add with a smile.
I’d open the book and pull the card from its little pasted-on envelope. ‘Property of Walt Disney Studios’ was printed across the top. A strange sense of excited privilege would come over me as I read the names, scrawled in soft black pencil on the stiff yellow card, of those who had previously checked-out this very book. Checked-out and signed for it as if they had been mere mortals like you or me! Clark, Davis, Johnston, Kahl, Kimball, Larson, Lounsbery, Reitherman, Thomas,** or even the boss himself, signed simply, Walt.  
The book I held became imbued with mystery and glowed with special magic for me, knowing that these giants of animation had touched it with their own hands, read it with their own eyes, spilled in it with their own coffee! 
What knowledge had they gleaned from it, I wondered? 
Had reading this book helped them to greatness? 
If I read what they read, would I learn what they had learned?

* Mr Lounsbery was one of Disney’s original Nine Old Men. My father worked at Disney from 1959 until 1967.
** The complete Nine Old Men.