I'm Paul Iorio, an arts & entertainment writer whose satire and humor has been published in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Details magazine, Spy magazine, The Huffington Post and elsewhere.
Here is a collection of my satire.
By the way, my non-satirical journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Toronto Star, Newsday, The Village Voice, Spy magazine, Details magazine, New Times, the online edition of Playboy magazine, Cash Box magazine and other publications.
But this site is about Paul's humorous stuff!
All posted text on this website written solely by Paul Iorio.
SAMPLES OF PAUL IORIO'S PUBLISHED SATIRE AND HUMOR
(ALONG WITH A FEW WEB EXCLUSIVES)
* * *
TABLE OF CONTENTS
NEWLY ADDED! The Huffington Post. How To Make a Hit Movie in the 2010s! Published by The Huffington Post, May 15, 2012.
1. The Chicago Tribune: A satiric piece on Katie Couric. (I'm really grateful that my editor got the joke and ran the story, because readers seemed to truly enjoy this one.) 2006.
2. Details Magazine: A controversial satiric piece about organized religion called "Choosing My Religion," in which I actually converted to the world's great (and not-so-great) religions -- all of them! Published in October 1994.
3. Los Angeles New Times: Cover feature on comedian Richard Pryor that includes my own eyewitness account of Pryor's last full-length concert ever. I'm still the only journalist anywhere to have ever written about it. (New Times's editing, which was minor (and counter-productive) to begin with, has been completely deleted here.)
4. WEB EXCLUSIVE: Little-Known Popes in Papal History. Published here for the first time. 2007.
5. Spy Magazine: The popular "Dylan-o-Matic," which presents a method by which anyone can create their own Bob Dylan lyrics. It's still circulated on the Internet, even though it was published in the pre-Internet era by a publication that is (alas) now defunct. From 1992. It can be found by cutting and pasting this link: http://groups.google.com/group/rec.music.dylan/browse_thread/thread/51cfbf16a11d33f9/b1b81d3e87492fae?lnk=st&q=&rnum=1&hl=en#b1b81d3e87492fae. I've also included a scan of the article here.
6. THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: The Paranoid Movie Game. A scan is included below. Conceived, written and designed by me.
7. SPY MAGAZINE: The Disneyfication of America. Satire (and some serious investigative reporting) on All Things Disney (including reportage about the creation of America's first Disney town, Celebration, which has since become a real place). The last half includes an all-too-real (and funny) conversation with someone at Disney about planning a Disney wedding.
8. WEB EXCLUSIVE -- My Faux Interview with Osama bin Laden. March 2007.
9. New York Times: A satiric piece on How Not to Blow Your Oscar Speech. (Nicely improved by an editor who rightly deleted a speculative section of the piece!) 1995.
10. EXCLUSIVE ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW WITH WOODY ALLEN. Web exclusive.
11. New York Newsday -- The Recycling of Woody Allen. (Note: This was wholly my piece, from idea to execution, and bears my sole byline, though in the print edition there is a nearby byline of another writer, in larger type, referring to other articles adjacent to mine, yet that other byline sort of makes it look like this was a co-written or co-researched piece, which it was not.)
12. San Francisco Chronicle: Profile of Dick Cavett.
13. SPY MAGAZINE -- Why It's Not So Smart To Be Smart Anymore. Humorous (but solid) investigative reporting.
14. PUBLISHED HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME -- "The Poetry of Borat Sagdiyev" -- Who knew he was a poet, too? 2007.
15. EAST COAST ROCKER: Review of performances by Tracy Chapman.
16. THE NEW YORK TIMES -- A Jack Nicholson Quiz.
17. "THE BUZZ," AN ORIGINAL FEATURE FILM SCREENPLAY BY PAUL IORIO. This is a fictionalized story of a non-fiction murder case that I solved in 1990 (see resume). "60 Minutes" and "The Village Voice" were both interested in doing a story based on my findings at the time -- until key sources became too afraid to talk on the record. Ultimately, with so many sources off the record, I found the only way I could tell the tale was to create this fictionalized version.
By the way, the screenplay is currently an inactive project business-wise (meaning that I'm not trying to sell it anymore), so there is of course no conflict of interest in my writing about movies for various publications (the screenplay was written before I reported about movies professionally).
Copyright 1995. I started writing it in 1990, initially calling it "Number One Bullet," but wrote most of it in '94 and '95. I also revised it in '97 and further revised it in 2003, and that latest version is presented here.
Some of the articles are presented here in original manuscript or updated versions.
All writing, reporting and research in all stories presented here by Paul Iorio (and there were no co-bylines on any of these pieces). All research in all Q&As by Paul Iorio. (Resume follows at the end.)
Here are the stories!
(By the way, please be wary of editors who claim to have contributed any writing or reporting to these pieces. They didn't. As the cliche goes, success has many fathers...)_
Everybody quoted in all stories spoke on the record and on audiotape.
A COUPLE HUNDRED PAGES OF
PAUL IORIO'S PUBLISHED HUMOR (AND SOME UNPUBLISHED PIECES)
* * *
HOW TO MAKE A HIT MOVIE IN THE 2010s! Published by The Huffington Post, May 15, 2012.
HOW TO MAKE A HIT MOVIE IN THE 2010s!
PUBLISHED IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
April 25, 2006 (in the print edition and online)
Streaming Katie's Consciousness
By Paul Iorio
If Andy Rooney gawks at my gams one more time I'm going to
flip, and I hope Bob Schieffer doesn't call me a "talented gal" again,
but maybe CBS can still show my legs in side-to-side banter with
correspondents, and if Lara Logan tries to upstage me I swear I'll
send her packing to CNN, and I hear they let you yell a lot behind
the scenes at "60 Minutes," so there's a good side to all this, but
please, sources, don't give me any forged National Guard documents,
and I really hope that Duke lacrosse scandal doesn't turn into the
next Jennifer Wilbanks disaster -- did I use the word "alleged" enough?
I'll have to rerack the tapes -- and if I do fall like Connie Chung, maybe I
can get a regular guest spot on "The New Adventures of Old Christine,"
a "Rhoda" for the Oughties, and don't forget the 31st anniversary of the
"Chuckles the Clown" episode of "Mary Tyler Moore" is coming up,
and it has been almost 54 years since the "Vitameatavegamin" episode
of "I Love Lucy," and maybe I can set up a confrontation with some old
guy at CBS a la Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King, but out here on the
plaza, I sometimes wanna click my heels twice and say there's no
place like a bank where I can deposit $300,000 a week, because
this is Katie talking, or is it the more elegant Katherine, the more
refined woman who I used to want to be? Sort of how Alexis Glick
seemed before Al Roker started being hostile toward her -- look,
I don't want to talk about what happened to Alexis, OK, because
this is Katie, and I want my bagel with novy not cream cheese, so
take it back, OK? I'll miss Matt and I'll miss Ann Curry even more
for being the Successor to Katie Who Everyone Knew Could
Never Succeed Me, someone who would scrub the base of the
Prometheus statue while I was interviewing Tyra Banks -- unlike
Alexis Glick, who I don't want to talk about -- so remember to always
hire a weak number two who could not possibly replace you, a good
insurance policy, and coming up in this half hour: Remember "The
Jetsons" -- "Stop this crazy thing!" -- well, flying cars may be finally
coming to a carport near you in another 50 years, says one expert,
and Matt, guess what song this lyric's from: "There were clouds in
my coffee, clouds in my coffee," and yes, it's "You're So Vain" by
Carly Fiorina, unfairly fired by Hewlett-Packard, and also in this
half hour, we'll talk to a woman who finds a diary in her attic that
proves her husband of 17 years is a lying cheat with three wives,
and what she did and what you should know about husbands who
don't always tell the truth, and have you ever played
paper-rock-scissors, a game I always lost in the schoolyards of
my youth, where the anger hardened so that Katherine, the elegant
Katherine on an isle untouched by man, soon became the
brilliantly blunt and fabulously direct Katie, who could beat the boys
at their own game and rub their noses in it -- "...7, 8, 9, 10, you owe
me a Coke!" -- and in this half hour, a man has a moment of truth,
when he realizes his wife is actually the stronger and smarter one --
what a brilliant man, wouldn't you say, Matt? -- and later: she was
a whistleblowee and he was the whistleblower, and five years later
they're happily married, and see how this couple made it work
because of one brave woman, and gas is now over $4 a gallon,
so I'm going to have to take on a second job to pay for it, Matt,
because 300K a week doesn't go as far as it used to, and in
"Today"'s jewelry segment, doesn't this diamond encrusted
iPod look smashing, Matt, and while I'm sitting on this couch stuffed
with emeralds, attended by assistants who serve my bagel with
novy not cream, I almost feel like Katherine...but back to Katie, and
coming up: What's love got to do with it, our guide to women who
say marriage is a great way to get rich not love, and have you
married a Keystone Husband, a mate who can't seem to do
anything right? Well, you're not alone, and we'll talk to the founder
of a new website, geenadavisforpresident.com, who is
trying to organize a write-in campaign for Geena Davis for
president in 2008, and maybe I can lure Ann Curry over to
CBS as permanent substitute anchor.
[Published in The Chicago Tribune, April 25, 2006.]
[PUBLISHED IN DETAILS MAGAZINE]
Choosing My Religion
Converting to the World's Great (And Not-So-Great) Religions -- All of Them
By Paul Iorio
If everything were to go wrong, it's somewhat comforting to know
organized religion would take you in -- no matter who you are or what you've
done or what you really believe.
But first you must convert. What religion is best for you? Which one
offers a sensible plan for eternity, no-fault redemption, praying that gets
results, easy admission to heaven, and a moral contract that's non-binding?
To answer these questions, I set out one morning to convert to the world's
great (and not-so-great) religions. Within hours, I grew certain of only one
thing: becoming holy was not the best way to expand my sexual options,
since many faiths prohibit even the most mundane erotic activities. Islam, for
example, forbids masturbation.
"It's a sin," says Abdul Hai of the Islamic Center in Chicago.
"You can't even masturbate with your wife?," I ask.
"How come you do masturbating with your wife?," says Hai.
"Mutual masturbation -- that would be okay, right?," I ask.
"I don't think so," says Hai.
So for those sometimes feel sex is too private to do in front of
another person, Islam is clearly not the way to go.
Muslims also bar lechery. "Even if you gaze at the face of a woman out of
lust, it is forbidden," says Muhammed Salem Agwa, an imam at the Islamic
Cultural Center in New York. (Sunnis and Shiites largely agree on such
I then tried the Mormons. First thing I found was they take marriage very
seriously. Not only do they nix sex before marriage, they believe in marriage
after death. This, of course, raises the question of whether one can file for
divorce in eternity.
"As far as getting a divorce in the eternities, I don't think so," says an
elder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. "If you lasted until the eternities
with your marriage, it's pretty much going to last forever."
"But if you do get a divorce in eternity, do you split the soul 50:50?," I
"Good question," he says. "I never thought of that. I'll have to think about
Judaism actually regulates the penis itself; circumcision is recommended
for converts. (For the uninitiated, adult circumcision is usually performed
under a local anesthetic and requires several stitches you know where.)
Next, I checked out the best ways of getting to heaven. For
Catholics, I found the password to heaven is a simple, "I'm sorry." Evidently,
the deal for Catholics is this: Commit any sin during the week, confess on
Sunday, and you're pardoned, no matter what the offense.
Catholics can even envision forgiveness for Adolf Hitler. "If at the end,
Hitler had been truly sorry for the things he had done, then the possibility of
forgiveness is there in a theoretical sense," says Father Kevin Madigan of the
Blessed Sacrament Church in Manhattan.
"Is there any point of evil beyond which you say, 'No amount of
repentance will redeem you?,'" I ask.
"No," says Father Madigan.
Catholics aren't the only ones with a loose forgiveness policy. Listen to
Pentecostal pastor Donald Lee of the Healing Stream Deliverance Church in
New York: "One of the people we're affiliated with is Son of Sam," he says,
sounding a bit like Dan Aykroyd's E. Buzz Miller character on the original
"Saturday Night Live." "We've prayed with him a number of times, and he's
really strong now in the Lord."
"That seems way over the top," I say. "If Son of Sam doesn't go to hell,
then who does?"
"He doesn't go to hell because he's totally repented. In this case, he really
meant business with God," says Lee.
"What sins won't you excuse?," I ask.
"When you experience the power of God and then you blaspheme it, you
mock it," Lee explains.
Other religions have their own quirky, irredeemable acts. What sin do
Lutherans consider unforgivable?
"To die in unbelief," says Dale Hansen, the pastor at St. Luke's Lutheran
Church in Manhattan.
"But then if I believe before I die, I'm forgiven my previous unbelief?," I
"That's right," says Hansen.
With this much forgiveness going around, heaven must be mighty
crowded, right? Not according to Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim heaven
has a tight guest list of exactly 144,000. Apparently, admission depends on
who you know. Each apostle gets to bring along 12,000 guests, says Elder
Eugene Dykes of Kingdom Hall in Columbia, South Carolina.
Despite stiff competition for admission to heaven, one can still have a shot
by following as many religious rules as possible. Among them are the Ten
Commandments, which raise complex ethical questions. For instance, would
I be considered unholy if I break the First Commandment by believing Al
Green is God?
"Oh, no, no, no," says Adriano Hernandez of the Broadway Seventh-Day
Adventist Church in Manhattan.
"Al Green is a great guy, but he's not the supreme being of the universe,"
notes Glenn Evans of the Singles' Ministry of the First Baptist Church of
"Believing Al Green is God means you're going to become a total servant
of Al Green," says Father Madigan, "and whenever he calls you on the phone
and wants you to do something, you're going to do that. I don't understand
how you can worship Al Green as a god."
"I think you're pulling my leg here," says the very smart Leslie Merlin of
Brick Presbyterian Church in New York.
If the Ten Commandments are strict, just think of Judaism, with its
additional 613 commandments. How do you know if you're violating, say,
commandment 537? "It's hard," admits Rabbi Jacob Spiegel of the First
Roumanian American Congregation. "We don't expect you to."
Most orders of Judaism don't expect adherence to their dietary laws. One
commandment forbids Jews to consume meat and any milk product at the
same meal, which rules out something as innocent as coffee with milk after a
burger. But Rabbi Simcha Weinberg of the Lincoln Square Synagogue slyly
reveals a loophole: "You could have the coffee first."
Islam's food restrictions are so strict it's a wonder someone hasn't
marketed them as a diet plan yet. Among the regulations, most devotees must
fast from dawn to dusk for one month a year. Does that mean not even a Slim
Fast or a megavitamin? "You cannot even take a drop of water once you start
fasting," Abdul Hai says sternly.
Praying is a good way to get your side of the story across to God. And
God reportedly understands every prayer in every tongue -- including
Pastor Donald Lee demonstrates his fluency in tongues: "When the spirit
comes into you, you'll be speaking in tongues -- cora ba shinda da ba sa --
like that. Like right now -- kara sheek a ra da ba da sheev ba ra sa. When I
pray in tongues -- cora da shotta -- it gives the Holy Spirit a chance to dig
But don't try imitating Pastor Lee, which of course I know you're dying to
do. "You could imitate me, but it wouldn't be by the Holy Spirit," he says.
"It would just be mechanical."
Islam requires Muslims to take comfort in prayer five times a day and to
turn toward Mecca when doing so. "Suppose I turn toward San Francisco," I
say. "Does that negate my prayer?"
"You can have a compass and you keep it with you," responds
Muhammed Salem Agwa.
Because I didn't have my compass with me, I decided to try another
religion. What about Christian Science? At the very least, it's a super way to
save on healthcare. I checked out a service in Greenwich Village.
The congregation, looking like people who wash their hair with bar soap,
sings Hymn 31, a four-four ditty with catchy lyrics like: "What chased the
clouds away? Twas love, whose finger traced aloud a bow of promise on the
Then it's open-mike time at the church, and a Christian Scientist with a
comb-over shaped like a gerrymandered congressional district says, "I have a
healing to share." Though the Scientists believe faith can cure any ailment,
this service was causing me sudden nausea. I left for the Hare Krishna house
on Second Avenue.
Approaching the Krishna center, I expected a lot of shaved heads and
chanters in neon orange robes. Instead, I found an almost irreverent
get-together of twentysomethings vaguely resembling Billy Bragg and
I investigated the Krishnas further. Which Vishnu god gives me the best
return on my worship? "Kirshna," says Akunthita Dasi of the International
Society for Krishna Consciousness in Chicago.
Must my cremated ashes be scattered on the Ganges River, or will the
Hackensack or Potomac do? "We just throw ashes in the lake here," says
Chakra Pani of the Temple of Understanding near Limestone, West Virginia.
Seeking something more earthly, I tried an Orthodox Jewish Minchah
service at Congregation Talmud Torah Adereth El in Manhattan. In a tight
basement with bars on the windows, men wearing hats turned the pages of
the Torah backward and spoke Yiddish in an emphatic fast-motion ritual. I made
a contribution and quickly left.
Equally daunting was a Catholic Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New
York. Inside, worshipers repeated "I shall not fear" as a cop patrolled the
north aisle and an usher prodded me with a long-armed collection basket.
Then everybody shook hands with one another on cue and filed out to the
sound of a barely audible organ.
A nearby Buddhist meditation service was a breath of fresh incense -- at
first. But then someone told me I was meditating incorrectly and needed
formal instruction. (In Zenspeak, I didn't know what I wasn't doing.)
My head was spinning in a spiritual vortex. I wondered: could I
simultaneously shave my head, get circumcised, genuflect, speak in tongues,
pray with a compass, and stop masturbating? It may be worth trying. It
would certainly improve my chances of getting to heaven.
[From Details magazine, October 1994; this is the way I originally write it.]
[PUBLISHED IN LOS ANGELES NEW TIMES]
Richard Pryor, At Twilight on Sunset
An Eyewitness Account of Pryor's Last Two Concerts
By Paul Iorio
It's twilight on Sunset outside The Comedy Store between the billboards
of dead icons James Dean and Frank Zappa and just down the street from where
John Belushi shot his last speedball. Around fourteen comics are scheduled to
perform at The Store tonight, but there are no lines around the block and no
ticket scalpers on the sidewalk, despite the star power of one of the
fourteen, the one whose name appears on the outdoor marquee that reads:
"Richard Pryor Tonight."
Pryor is about to perform what will become the last two shows of his
life. It's July 17, 1996.
Defying his own multiple sclerosis, he is set to take the stage at The
Comedy Store, the West Hollywood, comedy club where he created his best
material in the 1970s, the birthplace of his codger character Mudbone and a
lot of other prime stuff.
But expectations for a laugh are lower than the setting sun, since
Pryor's M.S. sometimes makes him not just unfunny, but incoherent. No
reporters, except this one, are on hand to witness Pryor's swan song.
Outside the club, stray Sunset Strip toughs walk and loiter. Inside,
a couple hundred fans file into the place, perhaps to glimpse whatever
legendary fire remains or to pay respect to a bona fide comic genius or
to survey the shambles of a collective youth lost to drugs, illness and the
ravages of time. A solo pianist plays "We're in the Money" and other
Five comics warm up for Pryor tonight. Though none could have touched
him back when, the openers are now the ones evoking most of the laughter, if
not the attention. The best is stand-up Mark Curry, star of the Nineties
television series "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper," who kills live.
"Free Willy: some people thought it was about some brother in jail.
'Willy didn't do all that shit, 'know,'" jokes Curry, as the crowd explodes.
And there are laughs for Argus Hamilton, the former Tonight Show regular
and writer for Pryor's TV show in the Seventies ("O.J. says to A.C.: 'I told
you Costa Rica not Costa Mesa!'").
By 10:00 p.m., the place is packed with Pryor fanatics and stand-up
aficionados. Pryor is late but no one seems to mind a bit. An exquisitely
pissed-off set by the very spontaneous Ellen Cleghorne takes everyone's mind
off the delay.
Then, at long last there's commotion at the back of the club as Marvin
Gaye's "What's Goin' On?" blasts from speakers. Two massive guys carry a frail,
thin, dapper man who looks, well, more like Mudbone than the person he used
to be. The full house stands and applauds vigorously but in a somewhat
ceremonial way, as if he were receiving some sort of lifetime achievement
award. Some in the audience seem to be taken aback by Pryor's physical
deterioration. The music stops, the crowd sits.
It's around 10:50 p.m. and, against enormous odds, Pryor has just
reclaimed the stage at the Comedy Store.
Pryor is wearing a red cap and sits in his wheelchair next to a stool
that has a glass of water on it. A handler puts a pair of glasses on the
comedian and then leaves the stage.
"These are glasses, right?" Pryor quips, calling the thick lenses
"Coke bottles." The audience, which is primed to laugh, laughs.
"I appreciate that you laugh at me no matter what I say," says Pryor.
The crowd laughs again. One senses that Pryor, like his early mentor Redd
Foxx, could die onstage clutching his heart, and the audience would roar at
"I'm gonna die soon," he continues. Twenty-five years ago, that line
might have kicked off a sidesplitter, like the classic in which he
impersonates someone panicking during a bad acid trip by repeating
"I'm-gonna-die, I'm-gonna-die" like a mantra-turned-tribal-chant. But
tonight, it's decades later, and "I'm-gonna-die" means I'm-gonna-die.
A sexy blonde woman in the front center row is quietly weeping,
occasionally wiping tears from her face.
"People ask me, 'Are you pissed off?' I say, 'Yeah!,'" Pryor says.
Pryor tries to sip something but has major trouble bringing the cup to
his lips. There's a long pause.
"I hope you're as nice to other comics as you are to me," says Pryor.
"We love ya, Rich," yells someone.
"Yeah, babe," shouts another.
A waitress serves the front rows, and Pryor spots her.
"What're you doin'? Stealin' drinks?" he jokes. A hint of the old fire.
He sips and softly says, "Shit," at something private.
"Thanks for listening to me...It's been weeks since I saw my dick hard,"
he says. This from a guy who used to joke his cock was "hard enough to cut
"Hold the mike up to you, sir," someone shouts. "So we can hear you."
"I don't want you to hear me," snaps Pryor. A long silence.
"Life's a bitch," he says, drooling a bit.
"And then you die?" adds a fan.
"Yeah, but when?" asks Pryor. "I don't mind hanging around, but shit!"
"When they said I had M.S., I said, 'I don't even know what M.S. is,'"
says Pryor. "Doctor said, 'Don't worry, you will.'"
A woman in the front row gets up to leave.
"Where you goin', pretty lady?" Pryor asks. The moment recalls a scene
from the movie "Lenny," where the Lenny Bruce character shouts, "Where're you
going?" to fans leaving a lousy show of his. But this isn't "Lenny," and he
isn't Lenny. Bruce died alone, broke and blacklisted; Pryor is dying with
lots of friends and fans -- and at least some money.
So when he says, "Where you goin', pretty lady?," the woman smiles at
him and says apologetically, "I'm going to the bathroom."
"I told my mom, 'Dad is fucking everyone in the neighborhood.' She said,
'Just be glad he isn't fucking you,'" jokes Pryor. Fans laugh.
He pauses. "Bear with me." The audience is now silent enough that
unrelated laughter from an adjoining room can be heard.
Out of the blue, Pryor says, "Thanks, Jenny," referring to his ex-wife
Jennifer Lee, who he has since re-married and who handles his life and career
with the dedication of a true believer.
"I beat Jenny up sometimes a long time ago," says Pryor. "She's the first
woman who ever hit me in the mouth. [pause] Just because I asked her for some
The crowd applauds. Then, attendants come to carry Pryor offstage, the
audience gives him a standing ovation, and recorded music plays. He was
onstage for forty minutes. The applause seems as much for his courage as for
And his raw honesty is jarring in this Age of Spin, when celebrities pay
publicists nice money to hide scandals or twist them into something
unrecognizable. Pryor seems proud of his imperfections -- or at least proud
of not hiding them -- and freely jokes about his bad health, his lavish drug
use, the brothels of his childhood, even something as reprehensible as
wife-beating. No muckraker could possibly expose Pryor's dark side because
the comic has already scooped them.
A week later, on July 24, 1996, Pryor performs another show at the
Comedy Store, literally the last full-length stand-up performance of
This time he is feistier and funnier -- at first. With the small club
packed again, and no journalists present (except this one) again, Pryor
gets some genuine laughs when he refers to fellow M.S. victim Annette
Funicello as "that M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E bitch."
"Put the mike closer," someone yells.
"Fuck you!," snaps Pryor, and people howl. Pryor actually seems to
like it when the crowd is rude and less reverential, perhaps because he's
then under no obligation to be appreciative, or maybe because he's developed
a taste for hecklers.
After joking about "getting pussy in the rehab ward," the show takes a
steep dive. "I got a mouthful of shit," Pryor says, "and I can't..." He
Pryor pulls out a piece of paper and tries for minutes to unfold it. An
uneasy silence fills the place. It's almost like the scene in the movie
"Born on the Fourth of July" when Ron Kovic starts a public speech
smoothly, but suddenly and inexplicably stops dead as the audience watches
"Take your time," someone shouts.
Pryor continues trying to unfold the paper but his hands just aren't
agile enough to do it. His body is literally progressively failing him with
every passing minute.
"We're not going anywhere," a guy yells.
"Neither am I," says Pryor, grumbling about not having his "big-ass Coke
bottle" glasses again. After several minutes, he finally finishes unfolding the
paper and stares at it for awhile. Now there's a new problem: he can't read it.
"This M.S. shit is getting to me," he says.
A handler brings Pryor a cigarette. Pryor flicks a bright red lighter
once, twice, and flames it the third time.
"Could you bring me a Number Twenty?" Pryor asks someone. A Number
Twenty, in Comedy Store parlance, is a martini.
"Yessir," comes the response from someone in the audience.
Smoke from Pryor's cigarette fills the air for an elastic, relaxed minute
In the spotlight, smoke hovers over the front rows like cumulus clouds
that are ready to drench and thunder with electricity. But the fire and fury
don't come. The crowd is silent.
"You all are very patient," Pryor says.
"We gotta be; we paid ten dollars," says someone, good-naturedly.
"Hey, don't start no shit!," Pryor says.
Through the smoke, Pryor lifts his Number Twenty feebly, as if he's Dave
the aged astronaut in the time travel sequence of "2001: A Space Odyssey."
With smoke and silence everywhere, the whole place seems to be caught in a
time warp; a minute ago we were in 1976 (wasn't that a minute ago?) and
suddenly we're transported to the present-day, where there's this old man
onstage in the house of his prime. Could this really be the same guy who
thirty years ago had such masterful physical control that he could
impersonate a race car, run hilariously in slow motion, or convince
audiences he was having a heart attack by falling to the floor?
"I know I can't see, but when I wear the Coke bottles, then everybody
knows it," he says. He smokes his cigarette, his breathing now audibly
"I'm glad I've got M.S. -- it's keeping me alive," he says. "Isn't that
what you said, Jenny?" Pryor was referring to Lee's much-quoted theory that
if the disease hadn't slowed him down, he'd have been killed in the fast
lane by now.
Onstage, Pryor's cigarette burns to his fingertips, and he isn't physically
able to remove it. "Get this motherfuckin' cigarette out of my hand 'cause it's
burning me!" he blurts, real pain in his voice. A handler bounds onstage to take
As it turned out, those were Pryor's very last words onstage in a
full-length concert anywhere. He would never attempt another stand-up
The half-hour show ends at 11:20 p.m., as two muscular guys carry him
offstage. Pryor is driven home.
[This story (or a modified form of it) first appeared in New Times Los Angeles in October 1996; it's also the first chapter of my book on Pryor, re-written in late 2005. Incidentally, I audiotaped Pryor's last show.]
WEB EXCLUSIVE, 2007
Little-Known Popes in Papal History
By Paul Iorio
POPE NAPOLEON THE 13TH
Mad Pope Napoleon the 13th's brief reign was marked by grandiose plans and an obsession with Napoleon Bonaparte. He was deposed when he tried to turn the Vatican into a nuclear power. (1952)
An anti-pope who advocated praying to the Devil and to God in order to cover all bases. (431 A.D.) [For the record, the term anti-pope refers to those who establish a power base that competes with The Holy See.]
POPE JESUS GOD THE SECOND
For all the arrogance of his name, Jesus God 2 actually turned out to be somewhat humble and unassuming, noted mostly for his punctuality. Was convinced the Old Testament had been penned by a guy named Smith. (1564)
POPE MUHAMMAD THE FIRST
With the Ottomans threatening Western Europe, the Vatican decided to throw Constantinople a bone by elevating a former imam to the top spot. Muhammad the First, a lapsed Muslim who fled Turkey and converted to Catholicism, fell from favor after he proposed building minarets atop St. Peter’s Basilica. (1627)
A hippie anti-pope known for his casual manner and affinity for pop culture, he dispensed with Latin rites in favor of "happenings." (Sept. 1974 to Sept. 1974)
POPE SASKATOON, GOVERNOR OF SASKATCHEWAN
As his expansive title suggests, Saskatoon might have been a bit more preoccupied with claiming long-denied status from the folks back home than with his duties as pope. (1910)
POPE LITERALIST THE 16TH
Took transubstantiation far more literally than most; after a car accident, he insisted Vatican doctors give him a blood transfusion using Chianti Classico instead of blood, a fatal decision. Advocated medical care for the dead, who he called the "as yet unrisen." (1960)
POPE JOHNNY THE FIRST
An American greaser of the 1950s -- and self-styled "Method Pope” -- who rode a Harley to work. (1956)
The first hip hop anti-pope. Expanded the use of "signs of the Cross" to include gang hand signs. (1998)
POPE RABBI GOLDSTEIN
Not officially a pope or a rabbi, and operating for a time from a psychiatric facility in Antwerp, where he occasionally broadcast a syndicated faith program called “This Week in Eternal Damnation," he actually convinced several dozen people, mostly Belgians, that he was the first Jewish pope. (1988)
[Published here for the first time, 2007.]
a scan of my December 1992 article for Spy magazine, the "Dylan-o-matic."
THE SAN FRANICSCO CHRONICLE
[The Paranoid Movie Game, which I conceived and designed and wrote for the paper; the only element not authored by me are the drawings within the boxes.]
[From The San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 1997; the "paranoid movie" coinage and idea came from me, as did the Paranoid Movie game board that accompanied the published piece.]
FROM SPY MAGAZINE
The Disneyfication of America
By Paul Iorio
Once upon a time, Spy magazine speculated about what would happen
"When Disney Ran America." It imagined Michael Eisner as president of the
United States, theme parks taking over cities, that sort of thing. Fictional
stuff, absurdly funny at the time, too silly to take seriously. Except now,
Almost every sector of America has been Disneyfied to some degree, it
seems. Disneyfication has come to every multiplex cinema, where Disney
flicks regularly rule, and at the highest reaches of pop music, where Michael
Jackson literally lives in his own theme park. It's in Las Vegas and Atlantic
City, gambling theme parks that somehow seem less real than Toon Town.
It's in shopping malls, those insulated mini-kingdoms that are spawning their
own fairground attractions. It's even in national defense, where the "Star
Wars" strategic defense initiative stands as the Pentagon's great, unrealized
hope of Disneyfying outer space.
And now, finally, American history itself is about to be Disneyfied. Plans
for a theme park near historic Manassas, Virginia, are expected to be
approved by a county board, thanks in no small park to a stunningly
expensive lobbying campaign that included the giving of Mickey Mouse
neckties to lawmakers. With Manassas virtually conquered, what's next for
Disney? A crucifixion wonderland in Jerusalem? A line of condoms made of
How about a Disney town? Believe it or not, Disney currently plans to
develop and build an actual town (projected population: 20,000) in the
Florida wetlands. The town is being designed as a sort of 1950s American
smalltown of white picket fences, clapboard houses and soda shoppes.
The proposed community, just south of Orlando, will sport the vaguely
creationist-sounding name of Celebration. It's not going to be "the kind of
place where everybody has to wear mouse ears," says Leanne Hand of the
West Group, which handles public relations for Celebration. (Disney
wouldn't comment for this story.)
So what will Celebration be like? "What I see is a 1940s Florida-type
community," says Chris Colombo, superintendent of the school board of
Osceola County, where the town is being built. "You're going to see houses
that as a kid I can remember very clearly. You're going to see upward-
mobility type individuals."
The vision of Celebration, in others words, seems to look simultaneously
to the past and to the future, or, rather, to a future as imagined by Disney in
the past, when an old-fashioned futurism of flying cars and magic potions
prevailed. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality even further, Disney
appears to be applying theme-park principles to Celebration: citizenship will
include free admission to Disney World and EPCOT center.
Not surprisingly, the town is also spawning a -- you guessed it -- theme
"You're going to see classes taught that are theme-oriented rather than
age-oriented," says Colombo. "Can you imagine a kindergarten student
holding hands with a high school student, looking at the flora and fauna?,"
he asks. "Are you familiar with the term 'exceptional student'? You're
going to see those students mixed in with whatever's called regular
There is also a question about the potential demographic makeup of the
town. The descriptions of Celebration ("like your hometown"; "a 1940s
community") combined with Disney's sometimes conservative corporate
culture lead one to wonder whether there will be much ethnic diversity in
town. After all, wasn't Florida racially segregated in the 1940s? Racially
speaking, isn't the town likely to be, er, snow white?
Again, Disney wouldn't comment on this or any other aspect of the town.
But Hand assured us that "Whoever happens to get in line and buy the house
first gets to own the house."
Hand explained Disney's reluctance to talk to me. "If you look at [Spy
magazine], you have to admit -- I'll admit it, I've read it before -- it's a
satirical magazine," she says, as if revealing some unspeakable truth. After
I told her that all sides would be fairly represented, she told me: "What I'm
gonna try to do is get some copies of Spy, because [the powers-that-be
at Disney], not being hip and not with the program, don't know much about it."
Then Hand inadvertently revealed that the ultimate in Disneyfication had
occurred: a county commissioner, she reported, "had his assistant call us and
say, 'I have this message from some reporter and y'all handle it, 'cause it's
about Celebration. Now what we need to do is tell him to call you if you
want to talk to him.'"
And with that, the Magic Kingdom inched closer to absolute power,
showing that even the government now comments through Disney.
PART TWO: PLANNING A DISNEY WEDDING.
Ultimately, Disneyfication invades even the sanctity of our rituals, to the
point where you can now have your wedding "themed" by Disney (as in, an
"Aladdin" theme or a "Snow White" theme) and presented at Walt Disney
World. (Still no word on plans to market Disney Divorces or Fairy Tale
Since Disney reminds us to tie the knot with imagination -- even though
the Disney theme park brand of imagination is conventional and banal -- I
decided to find out how far the company would go to make my wedding
plans come true, whether they would (in Disneyspeak) put the icing on the
street of dreams.
I phoned Disney's Rebecca Miller about planning my upcoming wedding
to, er, Minnie. Here's a transcript of our conversation:
IORIO: I'm thinking in terms of a kind of "Fantasia"-type [wedding].
MILLER: Absolutely. In fact, we have a ballroom at the Contemporary
[Hotel] called the Fantasia Ballroom. The types of things we can do from a
decor standpoint, as far as adapting whatever movie it may be -- certainly a
Disney movie -- there's no limit.
IORIO: Have you ever done a Dumbo wedding?
MILLER: Never done a Dumbo wedding. I can say I've never done a
Dumbo wedding but we've done "Aladdin" themes. We have done a very
elaborate "Beauty and the Beast" theme wedding where we've done literally
a stage show.
IORIO: What about at the reception having a flying elephant in the sense of
a helium-filled elephant in the reception area over the crowd? Possible?
MILLER: Possible, if we have one. What we draw a lot from are existing
things that have been in past parades. I don't know if we have a huge
Dumbo. Doesn't mean we can't create it. However, I have no idea where to even tell
you we're looking at cost-wise for that kind of thing.
IORIO: Here's another one that we were thinking of, because it's a personal
favorite of my fiancee's, and that is the "Snow White and the Three Stooges"
movie. And don't laugh.
IORIO: That just happens to be an old '62 movie that she likes. Now, the
Three Stooges, however, aren't --
IORIO: Aren't yours -- exactly. But is it possible to get...Manny, Moe and
Shemp or whatever?
MILLER: You mean actors?
MILLER: Sure. I wouldn't see why not. That's something that our talent
booking people would do, would put a call out or certainly do a talent search
for people who could appropriately play those actors, if you will. With our
resources being as vast as they are, I don't see that would be a problem.
IORIO: In terms of Dumbo's ears, can you get those? I know you have
Mickey Mouse ears.
MILLER: I do not know the answer to that question. If it is an existing
product, we can; when you get into copyright things and to things that are
very character-oriented that way, then it's probably not something in mass
quantities that we could have produced.
IORIO: And here's another idea in terms of adding some realism into it. If
we could get, like in a controlled container, cute mice, for example, maybe
ten of them or something. I don't know how appropriate that would be at the
MILLER: Again, I don't know about -- I mean, we have rules and things like
that. You mean, just having them sit there?
IORIO: Like Mickey Mouse. I don't know, I'm trying to picture how it
would even be --
MILLER: If you're talking mice, let's say from a Cinderella standpoint, what
some of the Cinderella brides and grooms have done in the past is to have
Minnie and Perla -- Is it Minnie? Is it Perla? -- the mice that make
Cinderella's gown...We have those characters...
IORIO: But in terms of real mice, though --
MILLER: Might be a little -- not saying we couldn't do it, but would they --
you -- they wouldn't run around, right?
IORIO: No, not at the [reception]. They'd be contained in a --
IORIO: A transparent container of some sort.
MILLER: I could look into it. Again, some of these are requests I've not yet
had, but no request is too extreme. What it takes is a little legwork on my
part, to make some phone calls and to see if something like this is even
MILLER: There are some things like that that may become issues. Yeah,
because people who want their dog to act as a maid of honor or as best man
or whatever, and unfortunately those requests have to be denied because pets
are not allowed. They are in the kennel location only; they're not allowed in
IORIO: Why don't we wait until I get to discuss this with --
MILLER: With Minnie.
IORIO: With Minnie. Let me discuss it with her and then we'll proceed.
A FEW DAYS LATER, SHE GOT BACK TO ME.
IORIO: The one other thing I had down was the idea of the transparent
container of mice. Is that going to be prohibited?
MILLER: The only thing that was kind of brought up to me was that perhaps
there would most definitely be a sanitary condition -- not certainly that they'd
ever be running around, but you'd have animals where you're serving food.
Do you have a number [of mice] that you're thinking of?
IORIO: I was thinking around ten of them in a transparent box or container
[placed] near the bandstand area. [My fiancee] was thinking in terms of, if
we could pin ears, Mickey Mouse ears, to actually have them be Mickey
Mouse mice. Cute little mice of a certain size may not be a problem; you
could get some regular paper Mickey Mouse ears, it would seem to me, and
clip them in a non-injurious fashion to the actual ears of the mice.
MILLER: The only concern I would have being that we were doing it is that
I don't know if we would want a real mouse to be in the likeness of Mickey
Mouse because we have Mickey Mouse, you know what I mean? Mickey
Mouse himself can come!
IORIO: So why have a fake one?
MILLER: Right, why simulate it with a real mouse when you can have the
genuine article there?
[From Spy magazine, September 1994.]
WEB EXCLUSIVE, 2007
My Faux Interview with Osama bin Laden
By Paul Iorio
Traveling through Tora Bora the other day, I decided to
stop by Osama bin Laden's cave for a quick chat on the eve of his
50th birthday. Osama welcomed me in, popped open a Red Bull and
plopped down on a bean bag chair.
I soon noticed bin Laden was not in his usual robe and
turban, but was wearing a Star of David and a yarmulke. A copy of the
Torah and Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" were on his coffee
table. I knew this would be no ordinary interview.
LOOKS LIKE YOU'VE CHANGED. ARE YOU THROUGH WITH TERRORISM?
OSAMA BIN LADEN: Yeah, the terrorism thing wasn't
panning out anymore. Everything we tried didn't work. For example,
we had a couple jihadists aboard a JetBlue flight last month, but
it was delayed for so long that even the hijackers stomped off the
plane in disgust!
WHAT CAUSED YOU TO BECOME A JEW?
BIN LADEN: It started when I was reading Rushdie's
"Satanic Verses" in my cave. Loved the story of Mahound. And Gibreel
was so sly. So that got me thinking about leaving the faith, and I
considered Hinduism and even Scientology before settling on Judaism.
YOU ACTUALLY LIKED RUSHDIE'S NOVEL?
BIN LADEN: I didn't expect to like it but it grew on me.
And I even enjoyed the bit about Mohammed's 12 wives. I, too, once had
sex with a prostitute named that way and, frankly, it
increased the eroticism. But the turning point was when I realized
those verses might be satanic after all. Sheesh!
SO YOU'RE ACTUALLY RENOUNCING ISLAM?
BIN LADEN: Yep. No turning back now. There were other issues,
too. Allah never answered my prayers. I prayed for a Kalashnikov.
Nada. I prayed for victory over the infidel. Nada.
BIN LADEN: I confess I was touched by a rabbi I was
holding hostage, a cantor who sang so beautifully that I decided not to slit
his throat after a couple verses of "My Heart Will Go On." He was brought
to me by Adam Gadahn.
THAT ORANGE COUNTY GUY WITH THE FAKE ACCENT?
BIN LADEN: Yeah. We used to privately call him The High
Imam of the Great Mall of Milpitas.
WAS THERE A TIPPING POINT?
BIN LADEN: Well, I started reading the Torah -- or the
Tawrat, as I used to call it -- and realized it was a lot like the Koran.
I mean, it almost seemed like a case of copyright infringement, if you
ask me. But I was drawn to all those commandments -- they sort of gave me
structure during a mid-life crisis.
WHAT DO YOUR AL QAEDA COMRADES THINK ABOUT ALL THIS?
BIN LADEN: They're cool with it. In fact, I saw
Ayman al-Zawahiri chuckling over a copy of "Satanic Verses" I gave to him.
Ayman likes Rushdie, too! But I think the real tipping point for all of
us was the JetBlue thing. Seven hours on the tarmac. And not even a
meal -- just peanuts. It just became too hard to be a jihadist.
* * *
By the way, it sounds like Ann Coulter is slurring her
words again. Probably drunk on religious fanaticism again.
Always beware of religious right-wingers like Coulter and
bin Laden, who I hear have had two sons together:
Mohamed Atta and Eric Rudolph.
[Web exclusive; published on this website on March 7, 2007.]
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
How Not to Blow Your Oscar Speech
By Paul Iorio
Winning an Oscar causes people to do strange things in public. It inspires
honorees to perform one-armed push-ups, to kiss statuettes, and to lose not
only their shoes but their heads on the way to the podium.
Few have truly mastered the art of the acceptance speech or can hit just
the right balance of grace, wit, gratitude and -- most important -- brevity.
Should one tell a joke, make a political statement, offer a verbal
love letter? Or is it best to hold back and say little? Whom do you thank?
This is, after all, probably the largest audience a person will ever
address (particularly if the category is make-up), so it's a big
opportunity. "There's about one thousand million people watching you," the
actor Paul Hogan once said, "and you remember: one wrong word, one foolish
gesture, and your whole career could go down in flames."
But that needn't happen this year if award winners simply remember the
past and follow these pointers:
-- Go Easy on the Effusiveness.
The Oscar can cause winners to thank everything in (and out of) sight.
Avoid this tendency. Cautionary tales include the speech of John Patrick
Shanley, accepting the award for best original screenplay for "Moonstruck" in
1988, who thanked "everybody who ever punched or kissed me in my life and
everybody who I ever punched or kiss." Also, Robert DeNiro in 1981
thanked "Joey LaMotta, even though he's suing us" (he won for best actor for
"Raging Bull"). And at the 1980 ceremony, Robert Benton, accepting the
best director award for "Kramer vs. Kramer," said: "I would like to thank all
the people at Columbia past and present." And Ben Burtt, the sound effects
editing winner in '83 ("E.T."), even acknowledged "various otters and
-- Avoid Politics.
No, your win is not a mandate to negotiate with the Serbs in Bosnia. But
some winners get that impression. In 1973, Marlon Brando refused a best-
actor award for "The Godfather" and sent an activist for native Americans,
Sacheen Littlefeather, in his stead. Vanessa Redgrave mentioned "Zionist
hoodlums" in her remarks in 1978, and was booed for it (she won the best
supporting actress prize for "Julia").
Just because there are a "thousand million people" watching is no reason
to be nervous, though nervousness might be the only natural response. Even
the best of 'em lose it. Meryl Streep dropped and briefly lost her copy of her
speech on stage in 1983 when she accepted the award for best actress for
"Sophie's Choice." And Geraldine Page couldn't find her shoes when her
name was called in 1986 for the best actress award for "The Trip to
-- Don't Overdo It.
In an acceptance speech, as in a love letter, it's best to dial back a bit when
the feeling is especially strong. What might seem like an honest airing of
healthy emotion at the time often sounds out-of-control on rewind. Sally
Field's 1985 effusion is the gold standard of modern public embarrassment:
"I can't deny the fact that you like me right now, you like!" Second place
goes to Jack Palance for his one-armed push-ups in 1992.
-- Nervousness Can Cause Incoherence.
Even the sometimes lucid Jack Nicholson mystified everyone in 1984 with
his cryptic ramble upon winning the award for best supporting actor for
"Terms of Endearment." "I was going to talk a lot about how Shirley
[MacLaine] and Debra [Winger] inspired me, but I understand they're
planning an interpretive dance later, to explain everything about life," said
Nicholson, adding: "All you rock people down at the Roxy and up in the
Rockies, rock on." And Jodie Foster nearly missed coherence in 1989 with
"My mother...taught me...that cruelty might be very human and it might be
very cultural, but it's not very acceptable" (she won the best actress prize for
-- Use the Phrase "Without Whom."
"Without whom" is the perfect poignant phrase for any winning Oscar
speech. Everyone's life includes a "without whom," so by all means mention
yours. When Steve Tesich won the prize for best original screenplay for
"Breaking Away" in 1980, he used two "without whoms" in the same speech.
In 1975, Carmine Coppola -- co-winner of the Oscar for his original score for
"The Godfather, Part II" and father of the film's director Francis Coppola --
offered a fresh spin by saying that without his son, "I wouldn't be here.
However, if I wasn't here, he wouldn't be here, either."
-- Get Grandiose (Pretend It's a Nobel).
It probably feels like a Nobel prize from the podium, so go with the
feeling. Marcel Ophuls did in 1989, when he said "There are whole
countries to thank." And Laurence Olivier's acceptance of an honorary prize
in 1979 sounded like this: "In the great firmament of your nation's
generosities, this particular choice may perhaps be found by future
generations as a trifle eccentric."
-- "You Know Who You Are."
The phrase "you know who you are" can save many minutes of speech
time. Anjelica Huston used this time-saver in her speech in 1986, thanking
"the entire cast and crew of 'Prizzi's Honor' -- I don't want to mention any
names; you know who you are." Warren Beatty should've used the phrase
when he named 14 names in 1982 and thanked "so many more."
-- Try True Wit (But Only as a Last Resort).
If the Oscar host can usually be consistently funny, why can't the winners
be, too? Some can. Dustin Hoffman, for instance, looked at his Oscar
statuette from the podium in 1980 and observed, "He has no genitalia, and
he's holding a sword." And Stirling Silliphant, winning the best adapted
screenplay award for 1968 for "In the Heat of the Night," said: "I really have
no speech. The Writers' Guild doesn't allow us to do any speculative
[From The New York Times, March 26, 1995.]
PUBLISHED HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME
Woody Allen Interview
(Exclusive One-on-One Conducted December 3, 1999, in Beverly Hills)
By Paul Iorio
QUESTION: A LOT OF ACTORS SAY THAT YOU TEND TO
GIVE GENERAL DIRECTION [ON THE SET]...IS THAT
WHAT YOU DO TO ELICIT PERFORMANCES?
ALLEN: Yes, sometimes I don't talk to them at all. If they have a
question, of course, I answer it. But I don't tell them anything. I
give them the script or their part of the script and they read it and
if they agree to do the movie, I assume they understand their
character, what they're getting into. And then they show up on the
set and very often they do it and they do it beautifully. Maybe
once or twice I have to correct them. But usually I don't say
anything to them unless they're doing it wrong. Or if they're very
far from what I wanted. But their instincts are good. If you hire
Sean Penn or Dianne Wiest or Hugh Grant or Michael Caine, you
don't want to mess them up. They're great and they do what they
do. So I rarely speak to them. And very often in direction, I'll say,
faster, louder, do less -- that's one of my big directions -- or I'll say
to them, "Look you have to come home into the apartment and
she's cooking dinner and you have to tell her you're leaving her for
another woman or something and you have to go from making
dinner to getting a gun to shoot her. And you make it happen. I
don't know how to tell you to make it happen. You just have to
convince me and make it happen." And they do. They make it
happen. The actor is a very, very strong tool to have and you don't
have to burden them with a lot of talk and conversation.
[WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE BEEN] A JAZZ MUSICIAN
OR A MOVIE MAKER?
ALLEN: I would've hands down been a jazz musician. Because
there's no art form that I could conceive of that would be more
pleasurable to be good at, to have a gift in, than music. The
response is so direct. I'm in a much more cerebral art form.
Automatically I've got to sit in a room and think and plot
characters and analyze their personalities and make sure things
work out...But a musician is gifted; he just kind of picks the horn
up and plays or sits at the piano and plays. You can be completely
illiterate and the emotion is so -- When you see these kids at a rock
concert, there're ten thousand kids out there with their shirts off,
the emotion is so -- You'll never get that [at] a play of Tennessee
Williams or Edward Albee or Eugene O'Neill or Arthur Miller.
You will never get that kind of response. You get a certain kind of
response. Or a film by Bergman or Fellini or Kurosawa or
Truffaut or von Stroheim. But music, it knocks you out instantly.
It's such a delight. If I could've had Bud Powell's talent, I would've
been very very happy with my life.
WOULD YOU HAVE RATHER BEEN A FILM MAKER IN
THE SWING ERA OR TODAY?
ALLEN: No, no, today is better. Because if you were not a
foreign film maker in those years, you were strapped into the
studio system of film making. And there was really no personal
expression at all. You had to fight and fight and fight. And I
know they refer to that as the golden age of movies but really when
you think of it in the United States, it was golden in that there
were so many movies made. The biggest thing in America was
film. But all those films, those thousands and thousands and
thousands of films, there were really very few good ones. Now
you may say, "Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, William Wyler, and
Orson Welles." But if you add them all together -- all these terrific
film makers and their work, and each one had to fight so hard to
make a good film -- and you add them all together, they're still a
tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of films that were made.
IF YOU WERE TO NAME YOUR FIVE FAVORITE [ALLEN]
FILMS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE? DO YOU AGREE WITH
THE CONSENSUS THAT "ANNIE HALL" AND
"MANHATTAN" ARE YOUR TWO BEST FILMS?
ALLEN: No, not at all. They're my two most middle class
successful films. They massage the prejudices of the middle class.
And so they're popular and people like them. But "Husbands and
Wives" is much better than both of those films. "Zelig" is a better
film. I prefer "Bullets Over Broadway," maybe even "Manhattan
Murder Mystery." "Annie Hall" was just a likable trifle that
people liked at the time and "Manhattan" as well. But they're not
nearly as good as some other films. From my point of view, they
may be more popular but you can't equate the popularity of a film
with the quality of the film. Very often your most popular thing is
not your best piece of work.
BUT ANDREW SARRIS MIGHT SAY THAT "MANHATTAN"
IS YOUR BEST. VINCENT CANBY WOULD PROBABLY
SAY "ANNIE HALL" AND "MANHATTAN" --
ALLEN: They might say that. I don't know if they would say that.
I mean, they might. Certainly Vincent Canby has reviewed other
films of mine as well or better than ["Annie Hall"], he was more
enthusiastic about other films. So I don't really know. There were
a lot of people who went crazy over "Bullets Over Broadway"
when I put it out. It got some of the best response I ever had. But
in terms of popularity, you're always going to be more popular
doing a nice contemporary film about relationships that people can
identify with. And films that are fun but not too challenging.
BUT YOU MUST WATCH THEM OCCASIONALLY --
ALLEN: No, no, I've never seen any film of mine after it came
out. I made "Take the Money" first in 1968, I've never seen it
again. Nor have I ever seen "Annie Hall" again or any film of
mine. Once I put it put, I just don't ever want to see it again.
Because I know I would be sitting there, thinking, oh if I could
only do that over. If I could only get the money and call in all the
prints and do that over.
DO YOU REGRET HAVING MADE A MOVIE?
ALLEN: I don't regret having made them. I think some have
come out better than others. There are two specific points of view:
mine and the audience or slash critics, the public. There are films
that I've made that are considered a great success because I had an
idea and I wrote it and I shot it and I realized my vision and then
nobody liked it.
ALLEN: "Stardust Memories," for example, was a film of mine, a
very unpopular film that to me just realized my vision perfectly.
On the other hand, I've had the opposite come true where I've
made a film like "Hannah and Her Sisters" that was wildly
popular, for me, and I was very disappointed in it when I was
finished, only disappointed in that I had a certain vision that I
HOW CAN THAT BE? EVERYBODY LOVED "HANNAH."
ALLEN: Right, but I had a different thing in mind. It's a different
animal for the public than it is for me. I'm sitting there and I'm
thinking, oh god, I wanted to do this and I wanted to do this, I
can't do it, I've got to compromise and I've got to change that
character and that's not how her story can end and this isn't
working. And when it was finished, I put it together as best I can
and put it out and it was very successful, very entertaining to
people. But for me personally, if they knew what I set out to do,
they would say, "Oh, I see why you have failed, because if this is
what you wanted to do, this is not it."
WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO?
ALLEN: There were a number of things in the characters that I
was trying to do, and the picture ended too neatly for me. I wanted
to make it much more that Michael Caine was back with Mia but
going through the motions. I mean back because Barbara Hershey
had married someone else and he's still completely in love with
her. And he was just sort of back with his wife now, like a man
who has some extramarital fling with some woman and he's crazy
about her but he can't seem to bring himself to leave his wife...And
he gets along with his wife, it's a partnership, but it's doesn't have
the same [feeling]. And I couldn't get that feeling into it. I got a
more of a cop-out feeling into it at the end where he was sort of
back with Mia, more contented, less anxiety ridden. And this for
me was a big negative. Whereas in "Purple Rose of Cairo," I got it
exactly where I wanted it. In fact, the studio called me, it was
United Artists, and they said, "This is a wonderful picture. Do you
have to have that ending on it?" And I said, "The only reason I did
the picture was so I could have that ending on it." I don't know if
you remember or not, but the ending was that Mia was forced to
choose between the real guy or the guy from the screen. And she
chose the real guy. Because you can't choose the fantasy in life
because that way lies madness. So she chose reality. And the guy
crushed her. The guy dumped her and went off. Because you're
forced to choose reality and reality so often hurts you. But they
would have liked her -- like at the end of "Splash" when he
married the mermaid -- to go off with the screen figure or to go
back into the screen or to do something where the audience went
out with a happy feeling. But that was a picture that I just felt that
I landed right on the dime. And to me, that was maybe my most
"CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS" IS SOMETHING THAT
COULD'VE HAD A LOT OF ALTERNATE ENDINGS.
ALLEN: But that was the ending that I wanted. That he hires
someone to kill the person and gets away with it and has no sense
of remorse about it. And is completely fine. He has a wife and
family. Because when I made that picture, my intellectual concept
to begin the picture was that there is no justice in the world, no
god, no justice in the world, and that if we don't police ourselves,
if we don't have a conscience, then nobody is going to police us.
So one person could commit a murder and be torn up by it
completely...And another guy could commit a murder and -- if he
gets caught, he gets caught and too bad for him. But if he doesn't
get caught, he commits the murder and he's fine, he's enjoying his
life. I mean, the world's full of people out there that have done the
most unscrupulous things, including murder, and live the most
wonderful lives. And there's no god to punish them, if they don't
have a moral sense themselves. So the movie ended the way I
wanted: I wanted Martin Landau to have eliminated this woman
who was bothering him by having her killed. And having a
perfectly good life with his family, and if it doesn't bother him, it's
not going to bother anyone if he's not caught.
BUT YOU HINT AT THE FACT THAT IT CHANGES THE
CHEMISTRY OF A PERSON WHEN THAT HAPPENS. IN
OTHER WORDS, HOW CAN HE CONTINUE TO LIVE THAT
FAMILY LIFE --
ALLEN: But he does. He's there with his wife and daughter at the
wedding and he's absolutely fine. He's aware of what he's done in
the story. But he's absolutely fine. And he's living in a nice
house, with a beautiful wife and a nice daughter. And the other
story, the subplot about me, Mia and Alan Alda: the fact that I had
wonderful intentions all the time doesn't mean a thing in life. Alan
Alda had the more important thing: he was a success. And even
though he was a jerk, he was successful. And people pay off on
success. They don't care about your good intentions. Now, you
can say that's a personal thing, for me as a film maker, and it is.
And it also operates for everybody else in life. The audience does
not want to hear what wonderful intentions I had with a film. Is
the film good or bad? If it's good, they like it. If the next guy's got
a good film, they like his film. They don't care what your
intentions are, that you wanted to do something great. And they
didn't care about my intentions as the character in that film. They
liked Alan Alda because he was successful and exciting, even
though he aimed low.
YOU MENTIONED EARLIER "BULLETS OVER
BROADWAY." WHY HAVEN'T YOU YET WRITTEN
ANOTHER FILM WITH DOUGLAS MCGRATH, SINCE THAT
ONE TURNED OUT SO WELL?
ALLEN: I don't usually collaborate. The only reason I did it that
time, Doug was a good social friend of mine, as Marshall
Brickman was a social friend and Mickey Rose, who I went to
school with. I write by myself most of the time because I enjoy it.
Then after a number of pictures, it gets lonely always writing by
yourself, so just to break the mold I'll call somebody up. And
usually it's a friend, and [I'll] say, "You want to work on a picture"
and they'll say, "Sure." And the experience of writing, just for a
change, is not quite so lonely. Because when I do that for four or
five pictures in a row, it means I've been doing it for four or five
years. That's the only reason. Some time again, I'll call somebody,
either Doug or Marshall Brickman, and say, "Want to work on a
picture?," and usually they do want to do, because we have fun
anyhow, so why not?
OF THE SEVEN PICTURES THAT YOU CO-WROTE, WHAT
WERE THE MAJOR PARTS THAT YOU DIDN'T WRITE? FOR
EXAMPLE, "BULLETS OVER BROADWAY": WHAT DIDN'T
YOU WRITE THERE? IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE THAT YOU
DIDN'T WRITE ANY OF IT.
ALLEN: That's what a collaboration is. When I collaborate with
someone, we sit in a room like this and we talk and talk and talk
about characters and ideas and where things should go. Then
when it comes time to actually write the script I go in a room by
myself and actually write the thing because I've gotta say it or I've
gotta direct it. They can then go home, they don't have any more
obligation. I want it the way I want it at that point. So it always
feels like me, because I'm the one always doing the writing. But
the formulation of the picture in a collaboration is done by two
people. So, many ideas I might not think of, were it not for the
other person. You know, you can never trace the origin of
something. I'll be siting with Doug or Marshall and he'll, say,
"Pitch a funny idea about pickpocketing." And then I'll say, "I saw
a movie the other day on television and there was a pickpocket in
it and there was a great car chase where the car burst into flames."
And then we write a joke about a car bursting into flame. I never
would've thought of that movie, and you can't trace it back.
WITH "ANNIE HALL," WERE THERE ANY PARTS THAT
MARSHALL BRICKMAN SOLELY WROTE?
ALLEN: Yes, Marshall Brickman and I collaborated on the whole
thing. We both did it together. That picture wouldn't exist
without him. We collaborated on every idea about Alvy and Annie
and how it goes and where it goes. All the hard work is that. To
me it's easy to write a script. I can usually can write it in, like, two
weeks time. Because all the hard work is done before. All the
hard work is done, where Marshall or Doug and I will walk the
streets or sit in my living room and say, "What about this?"
that doesn't lead any place." "What about this?" Then we're silent
for fifteen minutes. And somebody says, "Maybe we should
rethink this and start over. Maybe he shouldn't be a banker.
Maybe he should be a jockey." That's the tedious stuff. When it's
all worked out, then I can get in a room and write it in two week's
time. It's nothing.
YOU WENT BACK TO MARSHALL BRICKMAN WITH
"MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY." IT CAME RIGHT
AFTER THE SPLIT WITH MIA FARROW. WAS THAT A
CONSCIOUS ATTEMPT TO DO [A LIGHTER COMEDY]?
ALLEN: No, not at all. There's no calculation in the sequence of
movies for me... As a matter of fact, "Manhattan Murder Mystery"
was written long before that. It was going to be me and Mia, she
was going to be the girl in it. And then when all that happened,
she dropped out and Diane [Keaton] came in and took over. But
that was not even written after that. That was written during our
YOU DID A DOZEN FILMS WITH MIA FARROW. HOW DO
YOU NOW ASSESS THE FILMS YOU MADE WITH HER?
ALLEN: One thing about Mia, she's a very underrated actress.
She's a wonderful actress, she's got a very good range. She can
play comedy. She can play serious things. And she's a very
I did some of my best movies with her, like
"Purple Rose" and "Zelig." No, I feel I was very fortunate
professionally in my lifetime to have had a professional
relationship with Diane Keaton and Mia. Because they both gave
me great work. There was a tendency, I feel, for the public to take
Mia for granted and figure, well, she was from Hollywood. But
she was a much much more complex interesting actress than
she has been given credit for. When she did "Broadway Danny Rose"
with me, I thought she was just wonderful. And knowing her as
well as I knew her, I was able to tap her capabilities...If I just saw
her on the street, I wouldn't have known she could ever do
"Broadway Danny Rose." She's a wonderful actress.
[Most of this interview had never been published until now; a small part of
it appeared in my San Francisco Chronicle story on Dec. 19, 1999.]
FROM NEW YORK NEWSDAY
Play It Again (and Again), Sam
By Paul Iorio
Woody Allen comes up with such memorable one-liners that it's
no surprise other writers steal from him. In fact, his lines are so funny
that even Allen can't resist taking a line from himself now and then. Here
are some examples of self-plagiarism in his films:
WOODY RECYCLING #1:
MARY: "I could go to bed with the entire faculty of M.I.T."
VANESSA: "I [slept with] the entire Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity at Yale."
(from "Play it Again, Sam")
ANDREW: "You were...sleeping with the...entire infield of the Chicago
(from "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy")
* * *
WOODY RECYCLING #2:
ALVY: "Hey, don't knock masturbation."
(From "Annie Hall")
MICKEY: "Hey, you gonna start knocking [masturbation]?"
SANDY: "I am an absolute expert [on masturbation]."
(from "Stardust Memories")
LEONARD: "I teach a course...in [advanced] masturbation."
* * *
WOODY RECYCLING #3:
IKE: "I'll turn into one of those guys that sells comic books outside of
MICKEY: "I'll wind up like the guy with the wool cap who delivers for the
(From "Hannah and Her Sisters")
* * *
WOODY RECYCLING #4:
DICK: "I...had the foresight to buy Polaroid at eight-and-a-half."
(From "Play It Again, Sam")
SALMON: "I bought Xerox at eight-and-a-half."
(From "Take the Money and Run")
* * *
WOODY RECYCLING #5:
FREDERICK: "I can't go out...I'm liable to kill someone."
FREDERICK: "I just don't want to be around people. I don't want to wind up
(From "Hannah and Her Sisters")
* * *
WOODY RECYCLING #6:
JILL: "What were you doing lurking around outside the cabin, anyway?"
IKE: "I was spying on you guys."
ANNIE: "What were you doing following me around for, anyway?"
ALVY: "I'm following you and David."
(From "Annie Hall")
TINA: "You know about [the white roses] because you spy on me."
JOHNNY: "It's not spying when you care about someone."
(From "Broadway Danny Rose")
* * *
WOODY RECYCLING #7:
NARRATOR: "He rents a car and attempts to run her over."
(From "Take the Money and Run")
MARY: "Did you hear the one where he tried to run her lover over."
* * *
WOODY RECYCLING #8:
SANDY: "The universe is gradually breaking down. There's not gonna be
(From "Stardust Memories")
ALVY: "The universe...will break apart, and that will be the end of
(From "Annie Hall")
* * *
WOODY RECYCLING #9:
DICK: [consoling Ike after argument about a TV show] "Take a 'lude."
RON: [consoling Mickey after argument about a TV show] "You want a
(From "Hannah and Her Sisters")
[From New York Newsday, March 1, 1992; all quotes from Allen scripts. (Note: This was wholly my piece, from idea to execution, and bears my sole byline, though in the print edition there is a nearby byline of another writer, in larger type, referring to other articles adjacent to mine, yet that other byline sort of makes it look like this was a co-written or co-researched piece, which it was not.)
[PUBLISHED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE]
Dick Cavett, in the Mountains of Marin
By Paul Iorio
In the green mountains of Marin County, California, talk show pioneer
Dick Cavett is playing hooky from his day job as narrator of the upcoming
Broadway stage version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." "My
colleagues in 'Rocky' are sweating and laboring right now, and I'm supposed
to be there," he confides. "I feel like they're going to find where I'm hidden."
Cavett's hiding place, at least this afternoon, is Mill Valley, where he
is preparing to attend the Mill Valley Film Festival's tribute to him.
At 63, Cavett is still best-known for having brought witty, literate chat to
the airwaves with his ABC-TV talk show, "The Dick Cavett Show," which
aired from 1969 to 1973, and a PBS series, which ran from '77 to '82 -- shows
that regularly mixed artists and intellectuals with entertainers and
Today, Cavett doesn't host a TV series but is still infallibly witty and
spontaneous, able to come up with a funny joke at will. For
example, when a clerk from a rental car company interrupts us and asks to
see Cavett's driver's license, he quips: "Can't I just describe it? It's
What does he think of the current cultural landscape? His favorite show is
NBC's "Law and Order." "The early years of 'Law and Order' were as good
as anything that's ever been on television -- and it took me so long to realize
it," says Cavett, wearing a "Twisted Tales" baseball cap (named after the
show about animals he currently narrates on the Animal Planet channel).
Of his own talk show career, Cavett says his best show was the one that
featured playwright Noel Coward and the legendary actors Alfred Lunt and
Lynn Fontanne. "Jack Paar called it 'the greatest ninety minutes I've ever
seen on television,'" he says. "In a way, it was as good as it can get...I was
better than I was on other nights."
His most famous program is probably the one in which novelists Norman
Mailer and Gore Vidal nearly came to blows on the air. In that show, Mailer
made a surly entrance, refused to shake Vidal's outstretched hand, and
proceeded to insult Cavett, Vidal and another guest, New Yorker magazine
writer Janet Flanner. "I said [to Mailer], 'Would you like another chair to
help contain your giant intellect?' And he said, 'I'll accept the chair if
you'll all accept a fingerbowl,'" he recalls. "Mailer didn't quite get what
he meant out; a re-write would've done it."
"Then [Mailer] said the thing that I didn't know till then would anger me
most: 'Why don't you just read the next question off the question sheet,''" he
says. Cavett's famous response was "Why don't you fold it five ways and put
it where the moon don't shine?"
When the Mailer show was aired in Germany, where Cavett has a sizable
audience, the translator had difficulty translating the retort. "They were
baffled," he says of the Germans. "'Something about a moon on a shining
Other noteworthy moments in Cavett's career include candid appearances
by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a show in which segregationist governor
Lester Maddox walked off in anger, and one in which publisher J.I. Rodale
died during a taping (after saying, "I expect to live on and on").
He says network executives never objected to the controversy his shows
generated. "I think they were kind of tickled by the publicity," he says.
Cavett's observations about his celebrity guests are always fresh. On
Andy Warhol: "He had two tape recorders on at dinner...He said, 'One is
recording the other.'" On Johnny Carson: "To me, he's still the guy who I
first saw do a magic trick in [a] church basement in Lincoln Nebraska, when
I was ten or twelve." He also recalls coming upon a dissipated Judy Garland
in the mid-Fifties and initially mistaking her for a cleaning woman.
The last ten years have not always been kind to Cavett. His three-million
dollar house in Montauk burned down a few years ago, and he has recently
suffered from clinical depression. But he does seem genuinely happy to be
performing in "Rocky Horror," though he jokes, "I thought I was going to be
the guy who wore women's underwear and garters and high heel," referring to
the role that Tim Curry played in the film.
He's also considering a return to his roots as a stand-up comic with some
sort of one-man show. "I probably will" return to stand-up, says Cavett.
"Even revisit my old act and comment on it...if I could remember my old act."
When I ask about his reaction to the countless Cavett wannabes and
imitators over the decades, he answers by recalling an exchange between
Cary Grant and a fan: "A fan said, 'I would give anything to be Cary Grant.'
And [Grant] said, 'So would I.'"
[From the San Francisco Chronicle, October 9, 2000; original manuscript.]
FROM SPY MAGAZINE
Why It's Not So Smart to Be Smart Anymore
(The Dumbification of America)
By Paul Iorio
Roman Polanski and Salman Rushdie are on the run. Woody Allen is
being hounded. Even Enrico Fermi is being called nasty things. Almost
everywhere, genius is being demonized and devalued. In movies, for
instance, a villain must be more than just an evil, violent psychopath; to be
truly feared and vilified today, it helps to be a genius. The gold
standard of celluloid evil genius is, of course, Hannibal Lecter of "The
Silence of the Lambs," who has spawned smart and wicked imitators ranging
from Tommy Lee Jones's character in "Blown Away" (who quotes T.S. Eliot)
to John Lithgow's bad guy in "Cliffhanger," who comes off like the
headmaster of a country day school.
Meanwhile, idiocy is being celebrated as something noble and pure in
movies like "Forrest Gump" and "Regarding Henry."
In real life, the new outlaws are geniuses like Allen, Polanski, and Michael
Jackson -- all accused, and one convicted, of a sex crime. Other recent
pariahs include scientific icons J. Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi,
irresponsibly called neo-traitors in a best-selling book; any artist funded by
an NEA grant (some of whom have been condemned as perverts on the floor
of the United States Senate); and computer wizards like the dazzlingly
sociopathic Kevin Mitnick, who raised major cyber-hell by penetrating
impenetrable computer systems at several corporations.
Clearly, being smart isn't such a smart idea anymore. In fact, it seems as if
some brainy people have had to dumb down just to stay employed. For a
time, even Meryl Streep, for example, abandoned big ambitions to become a
regular gal and action movie star (how long before she starts calling herself
Mary Streep?). Mario Cuomo tried, unsuccessfully, to keep his job by
running TV ads featuring an endearingly inarticulate supporter who
mispronounced his name as "Como," as in Perry, instead of Cuomo, as in
Aquinas. The trend can also be seen in TV ads like the one in which an
announcer asks something like: "Who's smarter -- this woman who shopped
at Sears or this prize-winning astrophysicist?"
Why does braininess have such a bad reputation these days?
Simply put, we don't like to be reminded there may be others who know
more than we do. As David Denby explained in his review of "Forrest
Gump": "A smart film hero, of course, would risk offending the many
Americans who now get angry if there's even a hint that they've been
Conversely, we're flattered by smart villains because we want to believe
that we are the victims of clever people, that we are locked in battle with an
exalted adversary, and not some dumb thug with a brick.
Oddly, the public doesn't seem to mind those who pretend to be smart but
are not smart (aka, the faux smart). In fact, lots of people prefer faux smarts
to the real thing, the same way some prefer fake wood to real wood because
fake wood doesn't rot, warp, or attract termites. Faux genius comes without
demons or neuroses; and it requires none of the tedious work of actually
writing a real novel or making a real film. All you needs is the paraphernalia
and accouterments of intelligence (say, nonprescription eyeglasses), and you,
too, can successfully mimic a smart person.
Plus, by being faux smart, you're spared the vilification of the truly
The first stop on the road to faux intelligence is a degree mill. Unlike
traditional universities, which make you do excruciatingly difficult things
studying), degree mills will quickly and easily add a cheap string of
important-looking initials to the end of your name. So why bother enrolling
in a big-name school, when you can just as easily buy a degree in a few
from a school whose name sounds equally prestigious to the inattentive and
If you aren't smart or affluent enough for, say, Bennington, try Barrington
in Burlington, Vermont, and see who can tell the difference on a resume. "If
you look at the name of the college...it appears that the name could be
mistaken by, let's say, foreign students for one or two other colleges that are
located in Vermont," says Robert Lorenz, an education specialist with the
Vermont Department of Education. "Bennington College comes to mind.
And there's a Barring -- Burlington as well."
The name also threw someone at the U.S. Department of Education.
"Barrington, not Bennington?," asked Education's Stephanie Babayak.
"[Degree mills] are very smart about giving themselves names that are
very close to legitimate institutions," says Charles Andersen of the American
Council on Education.
Can one at least assume that Barrington is located in the heart of Vermont
academia? Only if you consider Park Avenue South in Manhattan to be part
of Vermont. And when we called the school, we reached someone in...New
"In the beginning, our understanding was that they would be located in
Vermont," Lorenz says. "Upon investigation, their 800 number appears to be
answered in the New York City metropolitan area. And their [Vermont]
address turns out to be a mail drop."
Posing as a prospective student, we soon discovered that Barrington was
virtually selling honorary degrees. "If you're interested in [an honorary
degree], yeah, there would be a donation involved," says Steven Bettinger,
president of Barrington. "You'd get a certificate and everything" for a total of
Bettinger then says that "a donation alone can't get the degree," but adds
that the only other major requirement is the passing of a credential
"That would be a resume and anything else you could add...any military,
just about anything." As far as actual programs of study, Bettinger says: "We
also have a Ph.D. program, which, you know, obviously you would do some
Barrington is evidently breaking the law by granting degrees of any kind,
because it has not yet received approval to do so from the Vermont
Department of Education. Lorenz told us the matter is being reviewed by the
office of the state's Attorney General.
"Barrington registered as a correspondence school, and that is not the
same as having approval to grant degrees," says Lorenz. "My understanding
is that they are offering baccalaureate degrees after taking seven courses and
they offer no hassle from teachers, no hassle from quizzes, and an open book
This College of Faux Smarts may be heading into legal trouble. "Granting
a degree without state approval would violate state law and be subject to a
fine of $1,000 per day," says Lorenz. Even honorary degrees? "There's no
distinction in the law between an honorary degree and another degree."
Some states are not nearly as strict about education as Vermont. Hawaii,
for example, is said to have some of the most lax regulations in the United
States. To understand this first-hand, we looked into the Eurotechnical
Research University, which is not located in Europe but in Hilo, Hawaii. We
Whatever Eurotech might lack in conventional credibility, it more than
makes up for in mystery. Two of its representatives mentioned up-front that
the school has a separate college of martial arts, which, as anyone knows, is
the backbone of a small technical university. Eurotech also lists a Hawaii
address but has a Texas phone number and an administrator in Michigan.
The school's president, Robert Simpson, tries to clear up the mystery
with this explanation: "I commute to Hawaii to Australia to Florida and
What's a possible reason for their Hawaii affiliation? "If you're filling
station, you can start awarding degrees in Hawaii," says Dave Stewart of the
American Council on Education.
I pressed Eurotech's president about the fastest way to get an MBA. "Let
me get to the bottom line: that degree will be ready [in about three months],"
he says, after hearing very little about my background. He went on to explain
that the master's program consists of two "modules," each with classes that
use texts, assignments, and possibly an audiotape. And all tests are open-
book, even the final. "That's the way busy people can get through it," he
But Simpson draws the line at selling honorary degrees, insisting I stick to
the school's rigorous Euro-Hawaiian module regimen. "We were gonna do
[an honorary degree] for the President of Turkey," he says. "But my
predecessor died in the middle of the process and by the time I found out
about it, it was too late."
"Why the president of Turkey?," I ask.
"I have no idea," says Simpson.
Seeking something a bit less Euro-Hawaiian, I tried Summit University, a
"non-residence" university with central offices in Louisiana and provosts in
Ohio, Delaware and New York. One advisor, Kenneth Onapolis, offered a
passionate defense of the fast degree/faux smarts ethos.
"Anybody can earn an MBA by going to school...," Onapolis says.
"There's an easy way of doing it and there's a hard way of doing it."
The easy way? "We submit you with an examination that is equivalent to
the master's degree program that a university would offer...It's computer
graded...We expect you to go to libraries, contact relatives, friends, business
associates, colleagues, whatever, to get the answers to the questions."
And so, without having to put up with pesky grades and studying, students
can receive a master's degree after passing a single test and paying a few
Still, faux smarts must be about more than just taking open-book tests and
mixing with the Euro-Hawaiian elite. It probably wouldn't hurt to have some
sort of professional degree from a professional-sounding school. So I
contacted the Southern California University for Professional Studies
(SCUPS), which, in spite of its traditional Ph.D. programs, was all too glad
to strike a deal.
SCUPS offered to sell me an honorary law degree for $10,000 flat, despite
my lack of any prior legal experience. All we had to do, according to Lorrie
Weiland, an admissions counselor with the university, was send in a resume,
any certificates that I held, and a one-page explanation of why I wanted the
"The first honorary degree we gave was to a gentleman from Korea,"
"Why Korea?," I ask.
"We've had three different individuals fly in from Korea for degrees," she
"Why Korea?," I ask.
"We're worldwide," she says.
"But yet all from Korea?," I say.
"It just happened," she says. "We just started doing it, and it just
"So who are they? Businessmen?," I ask.
"Businessmen, yes. They were all businessmen," she says.
"Did they make a contribution to the university?," I ask.
"Yes, oh, yes. You'd pay the same [for the honorary law degree] as you'd
pay for the [actual degree]," she says.
SCUPS, along with Eurotech and Barrington, are not officially accredited
schools, unless you count their ostensible "accreditation" by an organization
called the World Association of Universities and Colleges (WAUC).
"[WAUC] is not an accrediting association that's recognized by either the
Commission on Recognition of Post-secondary Accreditation or the U.S.
Department of Education, which are the only ones that count in this county,"
says Education's Dave Stewart, an expert on degree mills. [Since this article
first ran, the Commission has been supplanted by another agency.] "I have a
number of inquiries on [SCUPS], one from a student who said he's been
trying to track it down. The last address I have for them is Las Vegas, which
We called WAUC president Maxine Asher and asked her about the
curious Las Vegas address. "I lived in Los Angeles and after the earthquake
in January  I moved to Las Vegas to get away from the earthquake,"
she says. "Well, I set up everything there but then I moved back to L.A., but
things were working so well that I'm going to leave it in [Las Vegas] with
the legal office in Switzerland. It's not a good reason but that's what
Wait a minute? Legal offices in Switzerland? Operations in Vegas?
Between this Swiss-Vegas connection and Summit's Euro-Hawaiian alliance
-- not to mention all those Korean gentlemen -- faux smarts appears to have
truly gone worldwide.
But faux genius can't ever be fully achieved with mere Swiss-Vegas
schmoozing. One also needs the faux accomplishment of, say, a book deal
from a vanity press. And by no means is there a shortage of companies eager
to publish virtually anything for a price.
Under the pen name of Jonathan Swift, I called Marketing Director Dan
Heise at Evanston Publishing and presented him with a modest proposal.
"Jon Swift is the name I write under," I told him. "I have two ideas that
are kind of controversial...One is a non-fiction book on the medical
ramifications of cannibalism. It would be about what parts of the body you
would ignore [while eating]. For example, don't eat this, eat that; if you want
carbohydrates, eat that. Almost a practical guide to [cannibalism]."
"How would you go about assessing the value of something like that?,"
"Through doctors," I said. "Have doctors say, 'Well, this would be
something you'd want to avoid, this would be poisonous, this part would
provide carbs, protein, et cetera.' Start with the premise that [the movie]
'Alive' started with..."
"Something that people had an interest in, however morbid," said Heise.
"They ate it up."
"Precisely," I said. "Would you have a problem with that?"
"I don't think we would," says Heise. "That sounds like -- although it
would be controversial, it doesn't sound like it would be patently offensive or
derogatory towards anyone. So I think it's definitely going to be taken into
"Here's the other one, and that is, like, one of those novelty books," I said.
"It's the wit of someone who is not really known for anything except being
very, very serious, and that is the wit of Saddam Hussein."
"God, that would be hilarious," says Heise.
"Believe it or not, you would be surprised, people who have covered this
guy in Baghdad, they have collected a lot of quips from him," I said.
"The wit and wisdom of Saddam Hussein!," says Heise, laughing.
"Like, when the Republican Guard was defeated, he turned to someone
and said, 'Frankly, I'd rather be in Port Palma" or something. When his oil
wells were being bombed, he said something to the effect -- I don't have the
exact quote in front of me -- but something like, 'A couple million gallons
here, a couple million gallons there, it starts to add up,'" I said.
"It'd be a cute fifty-pager," I said.
"To tell the truth, I think that would be a hot, a hot item!," says Heise. "It
depends on the reaction you'd get from distributors and chain stores, et
Because if they don't like it, then it's not gonna go anywhere. But it seems to
me to be the kind of thing that would definitely get people's attention, and
that's what you've got to do in this business. Especially if you made it
something like a $6.95 impulse item or even a calendar."
I then shopped the same ideas to Vantage Press, the premiere vanity
publisher, making our pitch to Vantage Editor Walter Kendall.
"My idea is a compilation of...the wit of Saddam Hussein," I said. "Many
of the people who have covered him in Baghdad understand that he is really
first-rate wit, and they have compiled some [quips] from press conferences...
Would you have a problem with something like that?"
"Not that I imagine," said Kendall.
"The other idea, which is kind of chancy, is, if you've seen the movie
'Alive,' it broaches the subject of cannibalism," I said. "I've actually done
about 100 pages of a book [on] the real story on [cannibalism]: what part of
the human body would be 'forget it, don't eat it'...Is that something that
create any type of problem?"
"Well, not theoretically," said Kendall. "...Based on the subject, I
wouldn't see a problem. But we'd have to see the book before we make a
"Are there any subjects that you don't approach at all?," I asked.
"Well, we don't do pornography," said Kendall. "And we don't do things
that are libelous."
Having closed my second faux book deal of the day, I took stock.
Cannibalism is in, libel out; Saddam is in, pornography out. Does that mean
I could write about eating Saddam but can't libel him?
Trying to make sense of all this, I looked back upon the several hours of
my academic/publishing career. To achieve faux smarts, it seems, all I had to
do was scrape together around $15,000. That breaks down this way: I could
buy a quick MBA, after taking open-book tests, for roughly $3,000; an
honorary doctorate for $1,400; and an honorary law degree for $10,000.
With that money, I could afford to publish my vanity books on "A Practical
Guide to Cannibalism" and "The Wit of Saddam."
Hold on. Was that offer from Vintage or Vantage? And was that school
Bennington or Barrington? In Vermont or Hawaii? Or Zurich? Oh, never
mind. Those are minor distinctions to the faux smart. As Spinal Tap's Nigel
Tufnel once put it, "There's a fine line between clever and stupid."
[From Spy magazine, January 1995.]
PUBLISHED HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME
The Poetry of Borat Sagdiyev
By Paul Iorio
Yes, Borat Sagdiyev is a faux journalist and documentary maker,
but who knew he was a poet, too?
Hard to believe, but a close listen to what Borat says
in the movie "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make
Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" reveals a hidden
poetry that is unmistakably, uniquely...Boratian. Here are
eight examples, taken verbatim (or virtually verbatim) from
King of the castle, king of the castle
Have a chair, have a chair
Go do this! Go do this!
King of the castle
* * * *
Do not fear me, gypsy
All I want from you is my tears
Please give them to me or
I will take them...
I will look in your treasures, gypsy
* * * *
I came to America to learn lessons...
But what had I learned?
Suddenly I realized
I had learned that if you chase a dream
Especially one with a plastic chest
You can miss the real beauty
in front of your eyes
* * * *
Will you please teach me how to dine like gentlemen?
...Is it polite to greet people when I make entry?
...Should I pay interest in people around the table...?
...What do you do?
...What do you do?
* * * *
I have no friends
I am alone in this country
Nobody like me
My only friend...he take my money and my bear
And he leave me alone
Not only this:
The woman I love, the reason I travel across the country
She had to do something terrible on a boat
And now I can never forgive her
Is there anybody who can help me?
* * * *
I arrive in America's airport
With clothing, U.S. dollars
And a jar of gypsy tears
to protect me...
* * * *
In Kazakhstan it is illegal
for more than five woman to be in the same place
Except for in brothel
or in grave
* * * *
I took a bus to Los Angeles with some friends of Mr. Jesus
I have arrived
[Published here for the first time, January 22, 2007.]
Tracy Chapman, Live at Carnegie Hall, November 28, 1988.
By Paul Iorio
Before describing what happened at Tracy Chapman's Carnegie Hall
concert, let's first picture the opposite of a Chapman show:
Chapman struts onstage in spandex and spikes, followed by her band
("My love boys," she growls), which includes Mark "The Animal" Mendoza
of Twisted Sister, and Philthy Animal of Motorhead.
"Yo, New York! We're Tracy Chapman and the Love Boys. Are you
ready to par-tay?! I can't hear ya. I said, are you ready for some maniac
music?!" She blasts into an ear-splitting version of "Money (That's What I
Want)," taking a solo in a duck-walk with her Strat between her legs,
segueing into a metalized "Material Girl."
Swigging from a fifth of Jack Daniels, she belts "Louie Louie," turning it
into a 12-minute garage odyssey. When confused fans shout for the sensitive
urban vignettes on her debut album, she roars back: "I - I - I just wrote those
to make it big! The whole shy thing was to get me some attention, get me
some -- "
Philthy Animal finishes the sentence, while pulling the ends of a dollar
"...to get some sympathy," he chortles, breaking into the opening chords of
the Stones's "Sympathy for the Devil."
For the set-closer, Mendoza plays Jagger to Chapman's Turner for some
bumpin' 'n' grindin' on a sizzling "Proud Mary." As the band leaves the stage,
one front row fan loudly requests "Behind the Wall," Chapman's sensitive a
cappella tale of domestic violence. To which Mendoza, visibly annoyed,
retorts, "Sure, I'll play it. BANG! ZOOM!," he yells, slamming his palm
with his fist. Chapman laughs rudely.
The fictitious scenario above seems, er, unlikely, if only because
Chapman, at age 24, has already defined an unusually sure and definite
public persona. Honest and shy, she set a reverential tone at Carnegie Hall, where
she played solo on a stage that was bare except for a microphone stand and
two small speaker monitors (not even a chair or extra guitars). This allowed
the audience to see and hear her as she must have appeared on street corners
in Boston back when.
[From the East Coast Rocker, December 7, 1988.]
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Jack Nicholson Quiz
(You Know What He Means?)
By Paul Iorio
Jack Nicholson started his career as
a sort of streetwise older brother to baby
boomers. While everyone else was innocently
preaching love in the 1960s, Mr. Nicholson
was teaching us the pleasures of experience,
punctuating his revelations with a trademark
phrase; "You know what I mean?"
"You know what I mean?" spices even the
blandest lines, adding a knowin resonance,
a leering innuendo. Mr. Nicholson could
probably create a provocative
double-entendre by attaching the
phrase to almost anything, even "Jingle Bells"
("Jingle all the way, you know
what I mean?").
How well do you know what Mr. Nicholson
means? Match the line to the
1. "She crossed her
legs a little too
2. "I'll be seeing
you on the outside,
what I mean?"
3. "It only gives
us a week to do it,
you know what
4. "I'd get a new
you know what I
dollars is not
too bad; no razor
blades, you know
what I mean?
WHICH MOVIES ARE THE ABOVE LINES FROM?
A. Easy Rider
B. The Postman Always Rings Twice
C. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
D. The Last Detail
ANSWERS: 1-E; 2-C; 3-D; 4-B; 5-A
[From The New York Times, June 12, 1994.]
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY -- PUBLISHED FOR THE FIRST TIME
By Paul Iorio
Opening credits roll to the music of The Kinks's song "Top of the Pops,"
which begins with a flashy drum roll and the spoken words, "Yes, it's number
one, it's top of the pops!" (it's a song about the glory of going to the top of
the record charts).
Credits end and action begins at:
INT. THE RITZ NIGHTCLUB, GREENWICH VILLAGE -- NIGHT
From the balcony level, we see a punk band roaring through a chaotic set,
with the singer wearing only underwear, the bassist spitting beer in the air, the
bass drum bearing the name of the band, The Amazing Graces. The crowd
moshes wildly in the front rows.
Two twentysomething pals, TONY ARMONICA and ALEX DARROW,
watch the show from the balcony. Tony, a music journalist, is dressed a bit
conservatively by rock standards, in a white shirt, beige khakis and with short
hair, sort of David Byrne-style. Alex, the black director of music sales charts
for Big Hitz magazine, is wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a t-shirt with a
green comic book Spiderman on it.
The band ends its set with blaring feedback, and Alex and Tony file out with
the rest of the crowd.
Some gig, huh?
EXT. THE RITZ -- NIGHT
Alex and Tony walk from the Ritz in the Village amidst throngs of fans in
torn jeans and t-shirts reading Husker Du, Soul Asylum, the Ramones and
SST. The club's marquee -- "Tonight: The Amazing Graces -- Sold Out" --
recedes in the background as Alex and Tony are seen (but not heard) chatting
on the way to Tony's car.
The two get in Tony's Fiat and we see the post-concert street scene through
the windshield from their POV.
TITLE CARD: Memorial Day, 1987
Tony drives off with Alex.
INT. CAR -- NIGHT
This time last year the bandmembers were office temps.
Now they pack the Ritz.
Actually, a couple of 'em are still temping, I hear.
They'd be top ten, if the charts were honest.
So would R.E.M.
Speaking of which, wanna hear an advance tape of R.E.M.'s
new one? It's called "Document."
The traffic is stalled ahead in his lane, and Tony gets impatient, pulling into
the lane for oncoming traffic before rejoining his lane.
Fifth gear sure comes in handy.
Man, you coulda got us killed.
It worked, didn't it?
Sometimes I dunno about you. You're either really brave
or really suicidal.
Tony slips in a cassette, and we hear REM's "It's The End of the World As
We Know It" at medium volume as they small talk.
So how's the new job? Hear you're running
the charts at Big Hitz, my alma mater.
Hear the magazine's still got a great dental plan: on
your first day, they hand you a toothbrush.
One minute you're Alex the lowly researcher
and the next you're in charge of the Hot 100.
Did I miss something?
Did I miss something? My boss, that Joe Montana guy,
comes in last week real nervous and suddenly quits.
No nothing. He gave up twelve years of seniority!
Why do you think he did it?
Dunno. Maybe the pressure, the promoters.
They're always like, "Gimme a top ten."
A top ten number on the charts for their record.
It's like, "Hey, Montana usedta give me a number
for an advertisement or a few bucks."
[shocked] Really? That's sure not how they
do it at Billboard or R&R.
Well, this aint Billboard. And I'm getting
tired of sending back the fifty dollar bills in his cassettes.
You mentioned it to the big boss, Sterling?
It's always, "Uh, no time."
They stop at a red light and notice the high beams of the car behind them.
High beams. What a jerk. I wish cars had
high beams in the back so I could retaliate.
A bus passes with a huge display ad reading: "U2 at the Garden, July 15."
Tony tries to jot the date but his pen breaks.
You gotta pen?
Here. [Alex hands him a novelty promotional pen
with a tuning fork at the end.] Keep it.
You sure that's a pen?
Yeah. A Buzzpen.
The Buzz sends 'em out. It's a pen and a tuning
fork and it buzzes.
Alex demonstrates, taking the pen from Tony and hitting the dashboard with
it, causing a buzz. He hands the pen back to Tony, who writes down the date
of the U2 show.
So who's The Buzz?
Local promoter. CHR radio, singles mostly. Real
name is Frank Buzzardo or something. Promotes
losers who can't chart.
The high beams of the car behind them fills the car with light.
High beams again. Prick.
Tony arrives at Alex's apartment house in the west Village (on Ninth Street
off Sixth Ave.) and parks the car.
Here we are at my rent stabilized abode.
Is Susan staying at your place tonight?
No, she's at hers. Hey, you gotta come
upstairs; I just bought the campiest album
of all-time: "The Tom Jones Fever Zone" LP
"The Tom Jones Fever Zone"! [laughs] Where'd you get that?
Rocks in Your Head.
Alex looks out the window and gazes briefly at a nearby car that has
autumnal leaf and flower droppings on its roof and hood (unlike all the other
I'll come up for a few. But only if I can
watch the Carson monologue.
You got it.
Tony turns off the ignition but the R.E.M. tape continues, now playing the
ominous "King of Birds."
Y'know, we oughta connect for Bowie at the
Meadowlands next week. I've been looking
forward to it since --
Alex is interrupted by someone with a ski mask at his window who raises a
revolver; Alex quickly rams his door into the gunman and runs for his life
down 9th St. The gunman drops his gun and is briefly knocked aside by the
car door but recovers his revolver and chases Alex at top speed. The gunman
has a slight limp that doesn't slow him a bit. Tony runs after the gunman, who
is far ahead of him.
Shit! I'm dying already!
TONY (running after gunman)
Run, Alex! Don't look back! Run!
The gunman shoots once at Alex and misses, then shoots from a half-block's
distance, blowing off part of Alex's left shoulder. Alex falls to the ground
shouting in pain. The gunman runs toward Alex, bends over him and puts
two bullets in his head at very close range before running off into the deserted
night. Tony watches in horror as he runs over to Alex's body and falls to his
knees. (In the background we see Tony's car, the doors open, the car's tape
player playing the droning ending of "King of Birds," with the lyrics,
"Everybody hit the ground, everybody hit the ground.") He screams "Alex!"
once, and the screen goes black.
INT. POLICE STATION -- NIGHT
An overhead fan spins as Tony, sweaty and raw from the heat and the night's
trauma, sits at a rectangular table in a dimly lit police interrogation room.
Flies are buzzing and the air conditioning is out. The wall clock reads 11:50.
A rotund DETECTIVE DALEY walks in, munching on peanuts and
accidentally bumping into a couple chairs. His assistant, a deferential rookie
named QUAIL, walks behind him.
[Pulls up a chair noisily, looks down at the police report
and says to Quail:] Looks like we have a 125,
maybe a 125.27, and definitely a 240, a definite 120,
a possible 460, but we have to know more.
And we need to investigate the possibility
of a 105. Got that?
Yessir. How 'bout a 160?
No 160; no robbery involved.
[He turns to Tony.] So what can you tell me?
Did ya get a look at the guy who did it?
He was in a ski mask. Maybe six feet, 200 pounds,
running with a sort of limp. But that's about it.
[Tony swats at a fly with his hand.]
[Glances at a TV monitor with sound down on the wall.]
Hold on: looks like something's on the news about
the case. [He gestures to Quail to turn up the TV, and Quail
quickly does so.]
A local news station is on the air with the words "Breaking News" on the
screen. An anchor appears.
NEWS ANCHOR (on TV)
This just in to the newsroom. At this hour, police are
investigating the murder of a 23-year-old music industry
employee in Manhattan. The victim -- whose name
is being withheld pending notification of his family -- was
reportedly chased down West Ninth St. and shot at close range
by a person wearing a ski mask and gloves. We'll have more
details on this as they become available. For now, our features
correspondent in Coney Island has an update on Clara, the
panda bear who shocked her owner last week by supposedly
speaking several complete sentences in French.
A talking panda bear. Now I seen it all.
[He stuffs peanuts in his mouth and motions
to Quail to cut the sound, which he does. He turns
to Tony again.] So is there anything else you can tell
us about what happened? Did he have any enemies
that you know of?
None I know of. Though he did mention he was being pressured
to acccept bribes at work. He ran the music charts for
a trade magazine.
Daley jots notes, glances at his watch and seems not entirely interested in the
So there was pressure on the job but no real enemies
that you know of. Okay, I think we have enough for now.
We really have to break off here.
Can I use the phone to call his girlfriend?
Sure. On the desk there. You can have the room
[Daley and Quail leave the room and shut the door. Tony picks up the phone,
dials Alex's girlfriend SUSAN ADLER and hears "hello."]
TONY (talking on the phone)
INT. SUSAN ADLER'S APT. ON WASHINGTON SQUARE -- NIGHT
[Susan, with long black hair and jeans, sits near a window overlooking the
arch in Washington Square Park in the Village.]
SUSAN (on the phone)
[playfully] Hey, Tony. So why aren't you busy
reviewing the Amazing Graces? [We hear Tony from
her phone: "Sit down, Susan. There's some
SUSAN (on phone)
You sound terrible. What happened? Where's Alex?
INTERCUT BACK TO:
INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- NIGHT
TONY (on phone)
Uh, we didn't -- I mean, he didn't -- he didn't --
[We hear Susan from his phone: "He didn't what?"]
TONY (on phone)
We ran into a problem. Alex is gone. He's been
shot. I couldn't help him. [He bangs his fist on the table.]
Dammit, I told him to run! I told him to run! [Tony
breaks into tears and the conversation ends. Screen
TITLE CARD: Three Days Later
Tony, visiting several music industry executives as part of his investigation of
Alex's death, stops at a corporate office on West 57th St., the headquarters of
the small Pacific Records label, whose president is STAN TILDEN.
INT. RECEPTION AREA OF STAN TILDEN'S OFFICE -- DAY
Tony pushes open the glass door (bearing the words "Pacific Records -- Stan
Tilden, President") and approaches the RECEPTIONIST, a new wave
looking woman in her early twenties.
Stan's been waiting for you. Come in.
INT. STAN TILDEN'S OFFICE -- DAY
Tony walks into Tilden's office, which has a 25th-floor view of midtown
Manhattan and gold records on the walls. On one wall is a framed yellowed
Billboard magazine clipping with the headline: "Pacific Signs Brendan
Skye." Tilden, who looks a bit liked Harry Dean Stanton in his thirties, still
speaks with a southeastern accent, a holdover from his North Carolina
upbringing, though he's a long-time New Yorker.
Glad you could come.
They both shake hands and sit down.
I hear you're investigating Alex's murder. Any idea
who did it?
Not yet. [Tony takes out his tape recorder and puts it on
his desk.] Mind if I record this?
No, go ahead.
Alex told me he had had lunch with you the day he died.
We did. He was scared that day.
Look, Tony, I want this so far off the record we're in
Okay, we're in Guam.
[pause] Alex told me the pressure was getting to be more
than he could bear. Promoters wanted to buy their way to
the top of the charts. [Lights a cigarette nervously.] I run
Pacific Records, so I shouldn't even be talking to you. But I
loved that kid. So let me put it this way: Let's suppose.
Let's suppose promoters paid for a top ten position by
overpaying for advertisements in the magazine. Y'know,
placing a full-pager but paying double.
And suppose everybody before Alex, including Joe Montana,
always took the bribes, but Alex didn't.
Who was pressuring him most?
I don't name no names. But it can be figured out. Just
look at who was taking out advertisements in the
weeks before the murder and see if the advertised record got
a number in Big Hitz that was higher -- substantially higher --
than the honest number in Billboard.
But Big Hitz and Billboard have different reporting
stations, don't they?
Not that different. Also, look at the Big Hitz number for
the advertised record the week Alex took over compared
to its number during the last week Montana worked. In
other words, look at the charts the first week the bribes
weren't happening. Just supposin' now.
But how do you connect the ads to any one person?
The promoter's name is listed at the bottom of the ad.
That's your man.
Alright tell me this: why would a singer pay to get on a chart
everyone knows is rigged?
'Cause not everyone knows it's rigged. A high chart
number in any trade's a huge boost. See,
Big Hitz may be out to lunch, but it's out to lunch in 17
countries and Puerto Rico -- the only trade besides Billboard that's
worldwide. So promoters'll pay $10-$15 thou per record.
It's that serious?
Someone's dead, aint they? You tell me. [He gets
buzzed by the receptionist.] Look, gotta step. But good
luck with finding out who did this. By the way,
He's fine. Still managing Custer.
I'm glad I signed Brendan back in '79 but his record
just didn't sell. We did everything we could. I
really wish him well in management. And I always tell
him, if he ever runs into any financial trouble to call
my brother Paul on Wall Street.
Thanks for your time. [He takes his tape recorder
and puts it in his bag.]
Tony walks through the reception area (the receptionist waves sweetly),opens
the glass doors and walks out into the waiting area for the elevator.
INT. ELEVATOR WAITING AREA -- DAY
Tony waits for the elevator and is abruptly approached by an absurdly
FEARFUL GUY in his forties wearing slightly ridiculous cloak-and-dagger
garb, his collar pulled up and a hat pulled down.
[Comically nervous] Are you that reporter
asking about the murder?
I'm a reporter, yeah.
Well, I'm Calvin Hoover, indie promoter. And I know the
secret story behind the Darrow murder. [Looks around
furtively.] It was a mistaken identity hit.
How do you know that?
The killer wanted to murder me instead. He mistook
Alex for me.
[incredulous] You?! Are you serious?
Yes, because I'm very outspoken, controversial.
Mr. Hoover --
Calvin, with all due respect, you don't look anything like
Alex. I mean, you're white and Alex is black.
Alex was in his twenties and you're not.
Calvin is startled by a loud ring from the elevator, which has just arrived.
Oh, no! They're coming for me! I can feel it!
Calvin runs for the stairway and disappears.
Tony shakes his head, smiles and calmly boards the elevator.
INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- DAY
Tony sits down at the rectangular table, the overhead fan spinning.
So you're investigating the murder as a freelancer.
Yeah. Wondering if you have any leads yet?
Nothing that would've caused a bloody nose much
People in certain circles say it was music-related, he was
killed because he refused bribes.
We've looked into that, talked to the main promoters:
Dykstra, Vance Wurmland, that guy Tom Coffee. What
a character, that Tom Coffee. He'll talk your ear off about
Presley. [Imitating him] "Elvis owes me money!"
He told me that, too.
They share a laugh.
Everyone's pointing to a promo guy named Frank Buzzardi,
nicknamed The Buzz.
[turns red in the face] Who?
Buzzardi. Three completely separate sources went out
of their way to say he might be involved.
Who says that?
[Trying to change the subject.] So did you know Alex well?
Oh, yeah. Met him right after I moved to Manhattan
Tony's face is seen in a tight shot, as he flashes back in memory.
EXT. AERIAL VIEW OF SAN FERNANDO VALLEY -- AFTERNOON
We see vast stretches of deep suburbia, palm trees and lots of sunlight that
contrast with the dim police station of the previous scene.
I came up in the San Fernando Valley suburbs, where
my first real job was as a newswriter for the
Los Angeles Chronicle.
EXT. THE L.A. CHRONICLE OFFICES -- AFTERNOON
Wide shot of the newspaper building and adjacent hotel (on Sunset Blvd. east
of Fairfax in L.A.). There's a sign saying: "Temporary Offices of the L.A.
Chronicle" and a next door sign reading: "Mirage Motel: Weekly Rates."
INT. NEWSROOM OF THE L.A. CHRONICLE -- AFTERNOON
A younger Tony (circa 1979) sits at his newsroom desk while an EDITOR
with a serious sunburn, Barnum Wiggles, stands over him against a
backdrop of loud overhead florescent lights.
Okay, no more daredevil stuff. I heard you chased the
guy on trial for killing his wife -- the CEO of
Palentine -- down the courthouse hallway, asking him
repeatedly whether he had found the murderer of
his wife yet.
I sure did. He always says he's looking for the killer and
denies he murdered his wife. So I simply asked whether he
had found the culprit.
He didn't answer me the first two.
I guess it wouldn't mean anything if you knew he sits on
the board of a company that was one of our biggest
No, it wouldn't.
Look, Tony, the "without fear-or-favor" thing only applies
to non-advertisers. We've got to fear and favor our boosters
if we're going to stay in business. And if that's not okay
with you, you're free to go to Greenwich Village [he
pronounces it Green-witch] or some place.
TONY (voice over)
So I did.
EXT. AERIAL SHOT OF MANHATTAN SKYLINE -- AFTERNOON
The dramatic opening chords of The Cars's "Bye Bye Love" accompany an
aerial view of midtown Manhattan that shifts toward the East Village. The
panorama moves lower and lower toward the East Village as the song
continues, gradually zooming to street level on the Bowery near Bleecker
TITLE CARD: The spring of 1979, the East Village.
EXT. BLEECKER STREET SIDEWALK -- DAY
Tony walks west along Bleecker Street from the CBGBs rock club.
The sidewalk is crowded with New Wave and Punk aficionados in their early
twenties wearing wraparound shades, Fiorucci pants, and t-shirts with the
names of bands and clubs like Richard Hell, the Mudd Club, the Gang of
People are carrying copies of newspapers and fanzines like the New York
Rocker, the East Village Eye and the Soho Weekly News. We hear the
Talking Heads's "City" as Tony, with a slightly spikey haircut and a
characteristically conservative button-down shirt, walks to the offices of the
East Village Eye.
EXT. EAST VILLAGE EYE NEWSPAPER BUILDING -- AFTERNOON
Tony walks into a building on Bleecker that has an East Village Eye sign in
the window; there's an incidental sign nearby reading "Tailors since 1919."
INT. EAST VILLAGE EYE NEWSPAPER OFFICE -- AFTERNOON
Tony walks through the loft offices of the Eye, which is divided by partitions
into large cubicles adorned with rock posters, bumper stickers and buttons.
A young Alex is deep in thought, editing copy in front of a poster reading, "If
It Aint Stiff, It Aint Worth A Shit" and "Nuke the Knack" as Squeeze's "Up
the Junction" plays from a turntable.
[Initially startled] My main man!
They high five each other.
[Holds up a telephone message.] Message from Brendan
Skye, that folksinger guy.
What'd he want?
Says your glowing review landed him a record deal.
Really? With who?
Pacific Records. He was signed by Stan Tilden himself.
Might get the opening spot on the Steve Forbert tour.
Wow. Gotta call 'im.
So who's on the cover, chief?
Toss-up: the Clash or the Records. Whatdya think?
"Starry Eyes" is huge.
Yeah, but we've got a real Clash scoop: they're playing
a secret benefit for the East Village Hunger Project.
As part of their 30 nights or whatever at Bonds?
Separate. Nobody knows about it yet, not even the
Soho Weekly News. I found out through a political
source: Susan Adler.
Susan Adler? Never heard of her.
She's amazing. She approached Joe Strummer cold backstage
and convinced him to do the show for free.
She's something. She comes from old money in the Village
but donates most of it to stuff like building schools in
El Salvador. Lives right on Washington Square. We did a
photo shoot of her with members of the Clash.
Tony takes out photos of a younger Susan with the band. Susan, dark-
skinned and pretty, with a haircut like a campanile bell, smiles warmly
in one picture. In another shot, she mischievously flashes the "v" sign behind
Joe Strummer's head.
Hmm. I think I'm in love. [pause] Is that a
conflict-of-interest? [They laugh.]
CUT BACK TO:
INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- AFTERNOON
At the desk, with the overhead fan turning, Tony and the detective continue
Any other leads you can tell me about?
We're checking a witness who says she saw a male
black running from the scene.
A black male?
Yeah, a male black, which would sort of refute your
theory, right? It might just be some black guy
who did it.
[slightly angry] What do you mean, 'just some black guy'?!
I'm just saying what the witness said. [Suspicious and going
on the offensive a bit.] And by the way, how come
you seem to know so much about this case anyway?
Shoe leather and phone calls, simple as that. [Stands
up and pulls out a business card.] Here's my card. Feel
free to call if you find something.
[Popping chewing gum in his mouth and eyeing
Tony suspiciously.] Uh huh.
Tony leaves the room.
INT. BRENDAN SKYE'S WEST VILLAGE BROWNSTONE -- DINNER
BRENDAN SKYE, a bearded mid-thirties former folksinger who now
manages alternative rock acts for a living, opens the door.
They hug as sunlight streams at a late-afternoon angle.
Am I glad to see you in one piece!
Tony steps into the living room, which is full of light, plants, a couple cats,
and a framed poster: "Brendan Skye Live at Folk City."
GENEVA MASON, wife of Brendan, comes in with a coffee cup that has a
Barnard College decal on it; she has very short blonde hair and wears a
Phranc t-shirt. The coffee is steaming and the air-conditioning is on. She
I'm so sorry about what happened. Are you okay?
Have you seen Susan?
Not since I told her the news that night.
Geneva's been visiting her just about every other night.
Says she seems depressed.
I'm not. I'm angry. I wanna find out who did this.
Be careful. For all you know, you'll be fighting 50 thugs.
50 thugs, 50 bullets.
They'll come after you.
50 thugs, 50 bullets. Nobody's more powerful than a bullet.
You're always taking too many chances, Tony.
That's what Alex said the night he died. He said I was
either brave or suicidal, he hadn't decided which.
[They laugh mildly.]
Well, we have some good news amidst all the tragedy. Geneva?
I'm finally pregnant.
We've tried for years. Not that I've minded the trying.
She nudges Brendan affectionately.
What are you going to name him or her?
We were thinking Alex or Alexa.
Alex, Alexa: I like that.
So you were saying on the phone you wanted to look
at some charts?
Yeah, if that's okay.
INT. DEN OF BRENDAN'S APARTMENT -- LATE AFTERNOON
Brendan escorts Tony to his den, which is lined with bound volumes of music
trade magazines and books.
My archive. Charts dating back to '53.
Do you have the Billboard and Big Hitz charts for the weeks
before and after Alex died?
I think so. Have a seat.
Brendan takes two bound volumes from the shelves; one is labeled
"Billboard," the other "Big Hitz."
[flipping through the books] Just checking out a theory.
In Big Hitz, he comes to a cluster of advertisements. One ad reads: "'Cold
Sunshine' by The Pillagers -- National CHR promotion by Frank 'The Buzz'
Next ad reads: "DMV releases "Always," the new single: promotion by The
Buzz (Call 1-800-The Buzz)."
[flipping through the magazine] Just before Alex died, the
Buzz was pushing two songs: "Cold Sunshine"
and "Always." Took out big ads in Big Hitz.
How'd they chart?
Tony turns to the Big Hitz masthead: "Joe Montana, Chart Director; Alex
Darrow, Research Assistant." In the same issue, he turns to the charts:
"Big Hitz Hot 100 Singles Chart"
(week ending May 25, 1987)
Joe Montana, Chart Director//Alex Darrow, Research Assistant.
#1. Tom Blue "Cisco Meltdown"
#2. X-Lover "Leave Me Yesterday"
#3. Lindsey Alvarez "Tell a Stranger Named Me"
#4. Fixed Rig "The Love"
The week before Alex took over, the advertised songs
were top five. Just as I thought.
How 'bout the week after?
They look at the following week's Big Hitz charts.
"Big Hitz Hot 100 Singles Chart"
(week ending June 2, 1987)
Alex Darrow, Temporary Chart Director.
position Artist Song
#1. DMV "Always
#2. The Pillagers "Cold Sunshine"
#3. X-Lover "Leave Me Yesterday"
#4. Tom Tim "Cisco Meltdown"
They're not even in the Top Fifty, can you believe it?
He finds the two Buzz songs near the very bottom of the charts:
#94. The Pillagers "Cold Sunshine"
#95. Bloodpool "Love Overtime"
#96. DMV "Always"
Both songs are way down at 94 and 96 the week
the pay-offs stopped.
A ninety point drop in a week! Unbelievable! Where
does Billboard put them?
Tony turns to the Billboard singles charts for the same weeks and finds that
both of Buzzardi's songs, "Cold Sunshine" and "Always," were at #92 and
#98, respectively, for both weeks.
Both Buzz songs are at 92 and 98 for both weeks
in Billboard. Exactly where Alex put them, too.
Tony and Brendan hover over the charts excitedly.
Shit almighty, Tony. You've gotta go to someone
with this --
I know --
'Cause this is like really --
I know. But the cops aren't listening to me.
Figures. [lights a cigarette] Buzzardi has major clout with
the Sixth precinct. Two uncles and a cousin on the force.
One uncle wounded in the line of duty, retired with a gold
shield, though it was later taken away after an investigation.
No wonder Daley sees no evil.
The Feds don't care, either, 'cause the money's too small to
make the radar. Buzzardi takes in thirty thou a year on
chart-fixing, which may not be the hundred-thou DiSipio pulls,
but it's not nothing. Particularly if it's everything he earns.
Why would anyone pay a promoter to buy numbers on
a chart everyone knows is corrupt?
Because not everyone knows it's corrupt. Big Hitz freshens
up the front office with a name writer every few years
to give them credibility, which covers them to run a back office
sewer in chart fraud and coin op.
Tilden says Buzzardi had a key to the Big Hitz offices and
their computer passwords even after he left the magazine.
He did. And enforced things with threats, violence. He's
openly violent and doesn't much care who sees it. He once
tried to rip out the eyeball of a rack-jobber backstage at a
Loverboy show in '83 in front of, like, seven people and a cop.
CUT TO (as the "Brendan voiceover" is heard):
INT. BACKSTAGE AT
Buzzardi digs vigorously into
the eyesocket of someone
and a stream of blood squirts
from the victim's face onto
Buzzardi and all over the cold
cuts and fruit on the backstage
table as several people watch
Only thing that stopped him
was the blood spurting all
over his Brioni suit and
everything. True story.
CUT BACK TO:
INT. DEN OF BRENDAN'S APARTMENT -- DINNER HOUR
Why hasn't the press exposed him?
Too smalltime. The NBC expose mostly caught the big fish.
Geneva walks in.
Bren, aren't we supposed to go to the Pointblank party?
If you want to, honey. But I've gotta be up early for NARM.
[Looks at watch] Thanks for reminding me. I'm meeting
Susan at the party. Let's connect later, okay?
Sure. And say hi to Susan.
Give her my love.
EXT. CBGB ROCK CLUB -- EVENING
The sidewalk and street in front of CBGBs is packed with alternative rock
fans in ragged garb and bizzers in hip suits. Sign on the door reads: "Closed
for Private Party."
Tony opens the door, hearing a blast of loud recorded music, and walks in.
INT. CBGB ROCK CLUB -- EVENING
Tony walks by numerous partygoers and hears fragments of conversation.
PARTYGOER WITH SQUEAKY VOICE
Such a buzz around Pointblank -- and Minneapolis.
PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT
Not every Minneapolis band'll make it big. I bet Soul Asylum stays indie.
PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT
[to previous partygoer] My ears are still ringing from their '85 show.
PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT
[to previous partygoer] My ears are still ringing from Altamont.
PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT
[to previous partygoer] Huh?
PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT
[to previous partygoer] I said, my ears are still ringing from Altamont.
PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT
[to previous partygoer] Can't hear ya.
Tony continues to walk toward the club's stage.
PARTYGOER WITH A GOATEE
R.E.M. will never have another hit as big as "Fall
on Me" -- they've peaked.
PARTYGOER IN A TURTLENECK WITH AFRO
Sifo Mabuse is giving a benefit against apartheid.
PARTYGOER WITH BLONDE HAIR
[to previous partygoer] Great cause, but it won't do any good.
Apartheid has about as much chance of falling as the Berlin
Wall or the twin towers.
PARTYGOER WITH A LISP
The drummer's not so smart. He was at 21 and a waiter asked
if anyone knew the Heimlich Maneuver. He goes, "Yeah"
and gives the Nazi salute. [demonstrates stiff arm salute]
PARTYGOER WITH LONG BEARD
[to previous partygoer] You just don't understand
his creative tension.
PARTYGOER WITH A LISP
[to previous partygoer] There's a fine line between creative
tension and just being uptight.
Tony steps to the bar and orders a beer. JIM JOLSON, A&R vice president
for a major label, approaches with THREE MEMBERS OF A ROCK BAND
in their late teens.
Tony, you gotta meet these guys. This is Kurt, Krist and
Chad of Nirvana. I'm thinking of signin' 'em.
[to band] You guys done any records yet?
TEENAGED KURT COBAIN
[Shyly] We'll have one out next year on Sub Pop, an indie
out of Seattle. They released Green River and stuff.
THIRD PARTY TO CONVERSATION
[to band] Advice: move out of Seattle, if you wanna make it big.
Nobody but Heart ever came from Seattle.
JOLSON [to Tony]
Check this out.
Jolson shows Tony a Pointblank promotional water pistol that publicists are
passing out at the club.
Another schlocky promo toy.
Susan Adler, wearing sunglasses that don't quite cover the fact that she's been
crying, walks quickly into the club and heads toward the cul de sac to the side
of the stage. Heads turn and people talk as she walks in.
Look who just walked in: Sue Adler.
[waves to get her attention] Susan!
Hi Tony. How's your story going?
Lots of leads I'll tell you about later.
Wanna get together and trade notes?
How about tomorrow?
Suddenly, a partygoer jokingly jumps in front of Susan with his water pistol
drawn. Susan reflexively kicks him in the groin.
SUSAN (to prankster)
You motherfucker! Comin' at me with a gun!
The prankster holds his crotch in pain as a small crowd begins to gather.
It's a toy, Susan, only a toy.
Susan walks briskly to the exit, with Tony a distance behind her.
EXT. CBGB -- NIGHT
Susan climbs into a cab on the Bowery. Tony knocks on the car window and
Susan lowers it.
Tony, I just don't want to talk now, okay? To anyone
now, okay? [Tony: "Okay."]
Tony watches as the cab drives away.
EXT. WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK-- MORNING
Tony walks past a group of six jugglers passing balls to one another and a
guitar player performing near Washington Square Park before crossing to
Susan's apartment house.
INT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT -- MORNING
Susan's apartment is decorated with a hip old money sense of good taste. The
large living room window has a third floor view of the arch in Washington
Square Park. An original Warhol portrait hangs on the wall.
[pointing to the Warhol] Is that an original Warhol?
Yeah. Warhol painted my great-grandfather John Adler,
Your great-grandfather was a congressman?
Represented downtown Manhattan for one term. He
once told me, "A congressman is less powerful
than a file clerk, if you're not the party in power."
Probably true. [pause] By the way, sorry about
that guy last night --
Forget last night.
So you doing alright?
I miss Alex and my life the way it was. Otherwise, I'm fine.
I've even thought about seeing a shrink but don't think
so. Shrinks always seem less perceptive than me.
Didja see the new Billboard? Some guy calls the murder
No, it quotes someone saying, [she reads from the article]
"'We will not hide from music-business related terror,'
said a senior executive who spoke on condition of anonymity."
My sources say it was hit, too. But who ordered it? Did
Alex mention any threats?
Come to think of it, there were quasi-threatening
messages on his answering machine.
Like, oh, things you can't really put your finger on.
Like: [she imitates a hard sell voice] "Are you blind or
going blind? If so, enroll in blah blah Braille School" left
three or four times a day. Followed by two-second messages
of random stuff like: "Wheelchairs are a big expense."
Anyone threaten him explicitly?
Not really. But the messages started after Alex sent
back a $700 bribe from a promoter who calls
himself the Buzz.
Everyone mentions him. I'm even interviewing him tomorrow.
The Buzz agreed to talk?!
Actually, he's probably checking me out to see what I know.
[excited] Let's connect after. Come by after dinner.
EXT. THE BUZZ'S OFFICE -- AFTERNOON
Tony walks into a dilapidated building that houses the Buzz's office on West
14th Street off 10th Ave. in the meat-packing district. There's a butcher shop
in the first floor storefront and a police car parked out front.
INT. THE BUZZ'S OFFICE -- AFTERNOON
Tony enters the Buzz's dark cluttered office, which looks as if time stopped in
1959. On the walls are posters and pictures of music events of the Fifties,
mostly local ones: "Flatbush Rockabilly Fest '56"; "The Roasters Play
Coney Island"; "Free Alan Freed." The room doesn't have a reception desk
or a computer and the clock on the wall is stopped at noon.
Seated behind a desk is Frank Buzzardi, a rough-looking, tough-talking guy
around 60 with tinted glasses, a full head of gray hair and acne scarring on his
His assistant, Sammy Stompeto, is a thin, thirty-year-old, dark-haired guy
wearing all black and a gold chain around his neck. He looks a bit like a
bartender at a strip bar and walks with a slight limp.
[taking a seat] Thanks for the interview.
Better interview me now, 'cause I'm an endangered species.
You don't find 'em like me in the biz any more. [Yells to
Sammy: "Sammy! My pills!"] Then to Tony: "Hypertension."
[Noticing tuning fork pens on his desk] Interesting pens.
Ya want one? Promo thing for radio. See, I got character.
Back in the Fifties, we was all characters. I was there at the
birth of rock 'n' roll, staring down at the cradle, I sure was,
when the babe was rattling 'n' rockin' for the first time. Today,
the biz is all lawyers, accountants -- they don't know
nothin' 'bout music. [Shouts: "Sammy!"]
Sammy, walking with slight limp, rushes in with the pills and a deferential,
Hey, Sammy, you gonna do that brake adjustment this weekend?
If you want.
Sammy walks from the room.
Crack mechanic, Sammy is. The best in car repair before
he came to work for me.
So how long have you been in the music business?
I started as a producer in the Bronx in '55, recording
The Klezmers. The neighborhood was so rough back then
you can hear gunshots from the street on our first record,
if you listen close. We left the shots in. We useta joke that
song was number five with a bullet -- literally!
[laughs roughly] Later, I got into promotion, sold the studio,
and worked with the Chevettes, J.B. Preston -- that was
before he was with The Troubles -- and the Fontana Five.
I'm sure you've heard the accusation: some say you
might've manipulated the charts over the years.
Look, it's my cocksuckin' job to manipulate them charts, okay?!
[He pops a pill without water.] Every promoter everywhere
manipulates them charts, that's why they pay us. I get paid
to make my records number one, okay? Promoters get paid
to promote, okay? My job is to do whatever I gotta do to
get PDs, GMs, DJs, chart guys off the dime. [Shouts:
"Sammy! Water!" We hear "Yes, boss," offscreen.]
I read in a newspaper where you were charged with payola in 1963 --
And proud of it. 'Cause payola should be legal, and
them DJs should pay to play my records, I always say.
Radio aint even good enough to play most my stuff!
There's also talk the murder of Alex Darrow was
somehow linked to chart rackets.
I don't know nothing about no murder or no chart racket
whatsoever. [Sammy brings him water, and the Buzz drinks it.]
Some have gone so far as to link the Darrow thing to you
in some way.
Some people'll say anything about anybody. Don't make
it true, do it? I'll let ya in on a secret, kid: no accuser is
ever gonna stop Frank Buzzardi from conducting business.
No way, no how, nowhere. I've survived since the Fifties,
and not everyone did. I survived 'cause me and Morris and
Hy and all them guys had a rule: you never let a man
mess with your business. Me, I've always carried my
own personal bodyguard. [He reaches to the small of his
back and casually tosses a revolver on the desk.] He's named
Smith & Wesson. Go ahead, touch it. It's a $25,000
custom-made .44. Bought with royalties from
"Sweet Talk 'n' Jive."
[handling the gun] You ever shot someone with it?
I might. If some cocksucker comes up to me and wants
my fuckin' wallet, you think I'm not going to blow his freakin'
brains out? If some cocksucker tries to take away my business,
I assure you he'll come down with some incurable
gun-related disease, he sure will. [He takes the pistol back.]
Buzzardi gets a single bullet from a desk drawer, puts it into the revolver.
The phone rings.
[With phone in his hand] It's Daley at the Sixth.
I'll call him in five. [Turns to Tony.] Look, I'd like to talk
more, but I gotta go.
Thanks for your time. By the way, you said Daley was on
the phone. Was that Detective Daley of the Sixth Precinct?
Yeah, Daley. I known him for years. We shoot at the
range together. [picks up the phone and starts dialing.]
Sammy escorts Tony to the door, and we see a tight shot of Sammy. We see
scarring on the right side of Sammy's head of the sort that might have been
caused by a bullet grazing.
EXT. BUZZ'S OFFICE BUILDING -- AFTERNOON
Tony walks from the building, where a police car is parked and two cops are
eyeing him suspiciously.
INT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- NIGHT
[Popping the cork from a Champagne bottle.] And so he pulls
out a pistol. [imitating Buzzardi's gruff speech] "It's a
$25,000 custom-made .44. Bought with royalties from
"Sweet Talk 'n' Jive." [They both laugh.]
Whatta thug. Sounds like some guy straight out of that book "Hit Men."
I was thinkin' that, too.
Tony pours Champagne for both of them, and they toast.
Here's to finding the guy who killed Alex.
They clink glasses and sip Champagne.
Forgot to mention it, but I found this at the crime
scene that night.
He pulls out a business card for The Steak Joint, an uptown Manhattan
Found it right next to Alex's body that night.
[looking at it curiously] Hmm.
But I checked out the place and it doesn't seem to link up
They walk out to the balcony, with flowers in pots and a view of Washington
How'd you get such a great apartment?
It's been handed down in the family for three generations.
It's like a movie set.
So you think Buzzardi was capable of killing --
Capable of anything. I mean, re-open the file on Amelia
Earhart; he probably has her in a trunk.
They casually stroll back from the balcony to the apartment. Susan puts on
some music -- Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me" plays -- and they both sink
into a deep pillowed couch, both slightly tipsy.
So you still having nightmares about that night?
Not anymore. And to tell the truth, there're some days
when I wake up invigorated because I know I wasn't
supposed to live to see this day. There's nothing like missing
a bullet to make you feel so totally alive.
Know what you mean. Fuck survivor's guilt.
We hear a Dylan lyric from the stereo: "Meanwhile life outside goes on all
Can you believe the cop called it a possible black-on-black crime?
I never really thought of Alex as black, even though he was.
Same here. When I had a tan, my arms were actually
darker than Alex's.
Even my taste in music was blacker than his; I liked Melle
Mel, he liked Zep. [pause] Did you know we were gonna
room together in '80 but I didn't want to commit to a
That was you back then: afraid of commitment. You couldn't
even decide whether you wanted to stay in New York or
move back to Burbank.
Lack of money can sometimes make you seem
like you can't commit.
Tony spots some unusual looking binoculars on her coffee table.
What're these? [He looks through them.] They make
everything upside down!
They're upside-down binoculars. They're a promo thing
from that band The Upside Downs.
Wow! Everything's upside down -- and close.
Is your world upside down?
[affectionately] Oh, ha ha.
He moves closer to her on the couch and puts down the binoculars.
This next thing is completely off-the-record, okay? Not
for attribution and on background.
Sure. What is it?
He moves over to her as if he's about to whisper something in her ear, pushes
her hair aside and kisses her on the ear and then on the face. They embrace
briefly, but then Susan stands up.
Tony, I like you a lot. But I have my own secret, which
is also completely off the record, okay?
I'm gay. Always have been.
[shocked] You're kidding?! But what about you and Alex?
Our relationship wasn't that way. Why do
you think we had separate apartments?
Never would've guessed in a million years.
The phone rings and she picks it up.
SUSAN (on phone)
Hi, Geneva. [pause] Of course, we're still on. I
wouldn't miss our Tuesday nights for anything. [pause]
Eight's fine. [pause] Okay. [pause] Love you, too.
Bye. [She hangs up the phone.]
[Slightly blushing.] That was Geneva.
Look, I've gotta run. You wanna go to that thing tomorrow
at the Apollo, the Orphanheart show?
Sounds like fun. I love Sunday afternoon concerts.
Three would be fine.
Tony leaves her apartment.
EXT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON
Susan bounds from her apartment smiling and wearing a multi-colored
flowered dress that's loose and airy, suggesting the quality of a cloud or
balloon. She acts like someone glowing from having had sex the night
before. Tony is in his car at the curb, and Susan gets in.
INT. TONY'S CAR -- AFTERNOON
Tony begins driving from the Village to Harlem, taking the FDR Drive
uptown. Windows are open, it's a sunny day and the radio plays John
Mellencamp's good-timey "Rumble Seat."
Haven't been to the Apollo since Sly Stone didn't
show there in the Seventies.
Alex would've loved this gig.
He always liked going to concerts with you.
Tony is driving in the right lane on the FDR Drive when a station wagon (with someone in the back) pulls in front of him at a slow speed.
The station wagon slows even more, causing Tony to tailgate. We see the road ahead
from Tony and Susan's POV through the windshield, while someone in the
back of the station wagon opens the rear and throws a large plastic
bag of thick red paint at them while shouting, "Next time it'll be blood,
From the POV of looking out the windshield, suddenly the entire windshield turns bright red. Tony, not able to see through the front window, swerves to the side of the road while turning on the wipers, which just smear the paint into varying shapes and shades of red and pink. (We see this from inside the car, of course, and the smearing red paint is all we see on screen for a time.) Tony sticks his head out the side window to guide the car to the shoulder.
Can't see a damned thing!
What the hell was that?
Think it's red paint.
Did you hear what he shouted?
Yeah: "Next time it'll be blood."
They arrive at the curb, get out, and clean off most of the paint from the
windows and hood with rags.
Motherfucker could've fuckin' killed us!
After getting most of the paint off the windows, Tony throws down the rags
and looks at the mess all over his and Susan's clothes.
Looks like my Fiat's bleeding.
Shit. The dress is ruined!
We can't go to the show like this. What d'ya wanna do?
Should we file a police report?
Won't do any good. I'll talk to Daley about it later.
You think Geneva and Brendan might be home?
Let's head over.
INT. BRENDAN SKYE'S APARTMENT -- EVENING
They ring the bell to Brendan's apartment and Brendan answers the door.
My god! What happened to you two?
I hope that's just paint. Come in.
It's just paint. Its mostly dry, though you might wanna
put some newspapers down on the carpet so we don't
track anything in.
Brendan spreads some newspapers on the floor and chairs. Tony and Susan
Can I get you anything?
Water would be fine.
So what happened?
Someone threw a plastic bag of red paint at us
on the FDR Drive.
Shouting something like, "Next time it'll be blood."
Geneva brings in water for everyone.
Sounds like vintage Buzzardi.
Tell me about it. But the cops won't listen to me. Cops
act like I'm a suspect.
Glad you brought that up, 'cause that's the rumor
I'm hearing, too.
[enraged] How fuckin' dare they? I'm risking my neck
to solve this and that's what I get?
Calm down. It's just they see you with Susan.
So what? We're just friends.
They don't know that.
What? They think my life is some sort of noir movie? I'm here
for their tabloid entertainment? Meanwhile I'm going broke.
No good deed goes unpunished, to coin a phrase.
[Looks at watch.] I've got to pick up my car and
head to Bear Mountain; I'm checking out The Confidentials
in a couple hours.
Need a lift to the auto shop?
I'd appreciate it.
I'll stay here with Geneva. [To Tony] Drop by my
place later tonight, okay?
Okay. After the Top of the Sixes. [To Brendan] Ready when you are.
INT. TONY'S CAR -- LATE EVENING
Tony drives Brendan uptown via Broadway.
It's Piney's Auto Repair on Morningside Heights.
I saw Stan Tilden the other day. He says hi.
Sweet guy. He still feels guilty about dropping me from
his label. But I don't blame him. I mean, my record
just didn't sell.
Says if you ever need money, call his brother Paul.
[Smiles] Wall Street Paul, huh? I might take him up on that.
[pause] You think Geneva is having an affair?
Why do you ask that?
I dunno. She's spending a lot of time away, supposedly
Tony's paint-splattered car begins making wheezing noises as it climbs hilly
Morningside Drive in Manhattan.
Hear that? Bet the paint screwed something up.
Lemme pull over.
He pulls over on Morningside Dr. where there's a hillside view of the city.
Tony jumps out, opens the hood, looks inside and comes back in the car.
Let the engine cool a minute.
They sit in the car on the hill for a couple minutes and talk.
So what else did Stan say?
[pause] He thinks the Buzz killed Alex.
But he won't go on the record, right?
Right. There's so much evidence that cuts both ways.
Like, Buzzardi's assistant has a limp like the gunman, but
that might just be coincidence.
I just don't see a happy ending to this.
Why ya say that?
[distant look] I just have a bad feeling. [pause] Y'know,
sometimes I wish I'd stayed a folksinger instead of getting
into the biz. I mighta had a hit by now, if I'd stuck with it.
The car fills with an increasingly bright light from an undetermined source.
There's still time.
It's too late. It's too late.
[Looks at watch.] We'd better roll.
He drives to Piney's Auto Repair Shop and drops off Brendan.
Thanks for the ride.
Don't mention it.
[smiles] Have fun at the party. And wear something a little less red!
They both laugh mildly, and Tony drives off. A block away, Tony passes by
The Steak Joint restaurant, the same place on the business card he found at
the murder scene.
[mumbles to himself] Didn't know it was so close.
EXT. 666 FIFTH AVENUE BUILDING -- NIGHT
Shot of the building and the "666" sign at the top.
INT. ANTEROOM OUTSIDE BALLROOM AT 666 FIFTH -- NIGHT
An attendant stands at a podium behind a red velvet rope holding the guest
list to the party.
[With Brooklyn accent] Your name, please?
Tony Armonica, freelance writer.
No, Armonica. I'm on the Stigma Records list.
Sorry, not here.
What do you mean? Vaccina Bayard put me on personally.
First name is Henry?
No, Tony. T-o-n-y. [Looks over at the guest list himself.]
See! There it is.
You don't have to be nasty about it.
A security guard approaches.
[To attendant] Is there a problem?
[To guard] No, I straightened him out. [To Tony] You can go in now.
Tony walks into the ballroom at 666 Fifth.
INT. BALLROOM AT 666 FIFTH AVE. -- NIGHT
Tony walks into the party as a tape of Husker Du's "Never Talking to You"
plays and goes to a table full of cold cuts. Standing next to him is Jack
Worstman, a bearded writer for Big Hitz. Tony picks up a plastic fork.
[Hold up his hands in mock fright.] Don't kill me! Don't kill me!
So, Jack Worstman. What are you doing here? It's a cash bar.
Very funny. I hear you're gonna stab Big Hitz in the
back with your article. Some gratitude. They hired you
when you were a nobody.
I'm simply investigating Alex's murder. And how come I'm
the only one from the magazine who's coming forward
about this thing? Which side are you on?
Not on the side of the rats, I'll tell you that.
[He shoves baloney in his mouth.]
No, you're busy with the snakes.
C'mon, the Darrow thing was random. Anyone walking
down that street at that time of night woulda been shot.
It was a spur-of-the-moment crime.
A guy wearing a ski mask is spur-of-the-moment?
And chasing him down and not stealing anything?
It was a hit, Worstman. [He points at Worstman
with a plastic fork.] And you know it. And you're not
doing anything about it.
EXT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT BUILDING -- LATER THAT NIGHT
Tony walks across the street to Susan's apartment, and a police car at a red
light lurches forward as he walks in front of it.
INT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT -- NIGHT
Worst party I've been to in a long time. Talked to Jack Worstman.
What'd he have to say?
Still loyal to Big Hitz and Buzzardi, if you can believe it.
Gonna write up the party for Music News?
No. Assignment's canceled. My freelancing's going
down the tubes because of this thing.
Y'know, if it's causing you this much grief, maybe
you oughta consider dropping the story.
No way. I'm committed to the end.
But look what it's doing to you. You could lose
everything because of a cause.
If I don't solve it, who will?
Now you're sounding like me.
And you're sounding like me.
Susan switches on the 11pm local news and fixes some coffee. Tony watches
the news inattentively.
On the television screen there's live footage of a mountain cliff illuminated by
police lights, and highway patrolmen looking down at a car that fell into a
NEWS ANCHOR (on television)
The car fell 100 feet down the cliff, killing the lone occupant
whose identity is being determined at this hour.
WITNESS (on television)
[upset] He took the turn sharp and look terrified,
like he was trying to pump the brake but it wouldn't
stop. And he went right over the cliff.
ANCHOR (on television)
The incident happened around two hours ago on
the main highway leading to Bear Mountain.
Wonder if Brendan saw this accident up on Bear Mountain.
Susan is still making coffee.
Some guy drove his car off a cliff right around where
Brendan was tonight. Bet he saw the whole thing.
Susan comes out to watch.
On the television, we see live footage of the mountainside where the car fell
and a zoom view of the smashed car at the bottom of the valley.
Oh my god, Tony! That's Brendan's Karmann Ghia!
It is! [He puts his hands over his face and cries.]
Susan hurls her coffee mug at the TV, smashing the screen.
TITLE CARD: A month later.
INT. BRENDAN AND GENEVA'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON
Nearly everything in Brendan and Geneva's apartment is packed in boxes and
stacked up, because Geneva is moving out. All the plants are in a corner next
to the "Brendan Skye Live at Folk City" poster. Geneva is visibly pregnant
Glad you could help with the move.
Wish I could do more.
I think it's the best thing for me to move in with Susan.
Can't afford this place without Brendan anymore.
And little Alex'll arrive in a few months.
I'm moving, too. Next month.
Really? Where to?
Don't know yet. I'm three months behind on the rent and
not earning any money. I guess I'll try temporary
housing for awhile.
In the sky outside the window is a single large cumulus cloud.
Have you talked to the police about Brendan?
Just an accident, they say. And it might've been.
But the timing stinks.
So what's going to happen to you after next month?
I really don't know. I'm under a cloud till the case is solved.
Keep in touch, will you?
What follows is a series of fast forward glimpses of Tony's life through the
Nineties and the 2000s.
TITLE CARD: 1994
INT. DENTIST OFFICE -- DAY
Tony reclines in a dentist's chair and the DENTIST is looking into his mouth.
[shocked] Lord! When was the last time you saw a dentist?
Several years ago. I've been sort of broke for awhile.
The roots in a few teeth are almost gone. I can recommend
Tony's cell phone rings while he's in the chair.
Mind if I take this call?
Be my guest.
TONY (on phone)
Yeah. [pause] I'm trying to get the money to go. I
haven't seen my relatives for years. [pause] Yeah, I'm
losing touch with my roots. [pause] Look, I'm at the
dentist right now. I'll call later. [pause] Okay, bye.
TITLE CARD: 1997
INT. BUS DRIVING INTO MEXICO -- AFTERNOON
As Los Lobos's "Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir" plays, a bedraggled Tony, now
sporting a beard, rides a ramshackle bus into Tijuana, Mexico, past signs that
say, "Last U.S. Stop" and "Entering Mexico."
EXT. AVENIDA REVOLUCION IN TIJUANA, MEXICO - AFTERNOON
Tony walks with his suitcase and a shoulder bag down Tijuana's main drag
and into a hotel. The sidewalk is crowded with hawkers, barkers and whores.
INT. TIJUANA HOTEL -- AFTERNOON
Tony approaches the desk clerk, who is behind protective hard plastic and
bars. The place looks more like a pawn shop than a hotel.
Do you speak English? I need a room for a few nights.
[in broken English] So why you here?
Why am I here? I hear it's cheaper than California.
I maybe have room. I check for you.
To his left in the lobby, TWO MEXICANS are talking secretively; one
points at Tony and whispers, "Asesino."
TITLE CARD: 1998
INT. CORPORATE OFFICE IN LOS ANGELES -- DAY
Tony is seated at a desk in an office and his BOSS walks by.
You're only temping for one day, so I want these letters
alphabetized and filed by five.
TITLE CARD: 1999
INT. TONY'S LOS ANGELES APARTMENT -- NIGHT
Tony is in his seedy Los Angeles apartment as his LANDLORD tries hacking
through the door with a hammer while shouting death threats.
(we hear him from the other side of the door)
[While banging on the door with a hammer] You had your
chance to pay rent! Now I'm gonna fuckin' kill you!
Tony calls the cops on his cell phone and we hear a 911 operator from Tony's
end of the phone: "This is 911. What's your emergency?
TONY (on phone)
My landlord is breaking in and threatening to kill me.
Hurry, if you want to save a life.
TITLE CARD: 2002
INT. LOS ANGELES BRANCH LIBRARY -- AFTERNOON
Tony is at a public branch library in L.A. surfing the Internet. He checks out
several websites before browsing the Hollywood Reporter site. He sees a
"Arrest Made In 1987 Slaying of Music Charts Worker"
Tony is in shock and stands up at his computer terminal. A LIBRARIAN
approaches from behind him.
Sir, you've used your fifteen minutes computer time. You'll
have to wrap up.
[Waves her away] Hold on, hold on.
He reads the story:
"Music promoter Frank 'The Buzz' Buzzardi was arrested today and charged
with first degree murder in the 1987 slaying of Alex Darrow, former music
charts manager for the Big Hitz trade magazine. The case, which had stymied
investigators for years, finally came to a close this morning when Buzzardi,
now a 62-year-old casino pit boss, was captured by Las Vegas police on a
warrant from New York. Investigators theorize Darrow was murdered
because he refused to sell chart numbers for bribes."
EXT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON
Tony knocks on Susan's apartment door. She opens it and looks at him with
shock and tears in her eyes, hugging him with a rush of enthusiasm.
You're back! Come in. [Tony: "Thanks."]
Susan hugs him again.
We thought we'd lost you. Last
I heard, you were in Mexico or something.
That was years ago. I'm okay now but there
were some rough times.
He looks around the apartment and sees a combination of Susan's things and
Geneva's. The Warhol portrait is still on the wall, Geneva's "Brendan Skye
Live at Folk City" poster is on another wall, and Geneva's plants are
In a corner are a collection of CDs and LPs, including, "The Tom Jones Fever
Geneva's still here. And Alex, her son.
Alex must be --
He'll be sixteen next month. Can you believe it?
The view's the same. [He looks out over the balcony
over Washington Square Park.] There's the arch.
Yeah but the twin towers are gone. We used to
see them from the den.
Ever see the old crowd? Like Stan Tilden?
Not since 9/11. His brother Paul died in the south tower
collapse, and Stan hasn't been the same since. He doesn't
return my calls anymore.
Sorry to hear that.
Geneva walks in from the bedroom wearing an Indigo Girls t-shirt, her short
hair now grey.
Tony! I can't believe it!
You look great.
A teenage kid who looks strikingly like a very young Brendan Skye comes
from the den.
Hi mom. I'm heading out to the show.
Alex, first say hello to Tony. He's an old family friend.
He'll be sixteen next month. And he's playing
guitar and sings just like Brendan.
[to Alex] So what concert you going to?
R.E.M. I'm reviewing it for my school paper.
[to Geneva] The more things change, huh?
You'd better get going, Alex.
Nice meeting you, Tony. [Tony: "Same here."]
Alex walks out the door.
We hear R.E.M.'s instrumental "Last Date" in the background.
I have some good news: I'm moving back to New York.
That new magazine Music Dateline hired me as a writer.
Great. You're welcome to stay here until
you find a place.
Did you hear the case got solved?
Oh, yeah. Buzzardi's in a cage. We were
You had it solved fifteen years ago. If only
the cops had listened to you then.
Some people have a lot of explaining to do.
Can you believe it's finally over?
Wish I could tell Brendan the good news.
Screen goes black and we hear the song "Heroes" by David Bowie.
TITLE CARD (before the credits roll):
The music business changed its method of compiling charts in 1990, a year
after the murder on which some of this film is based. The industry now uses
the SoundScan system, which provides a more objective measure of record
The murder case on which parts of this film is based was finally solved after
13 years of detective work in 2002, with the arrest of Nashville promoter
Richard D'Antonio (aka, The Tone).
2923 Florence St.
Berkeley, California 94705
Tel.: 510-204-9417 (cell: 510-229-0407) -- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
VARIOUS PUBLICATIONS, INCLUDING THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE AND PEOPLE MAGAZINE
January 1988 to present (see specific dates for each publication)
Wrote satiric piece for The Chicago Tribune (April 25, 2006) that has since been posted on numerous media and private websites. Wrote several stories (2007) that are currently being readied or considered for publication at several newspapers and magazines.
Wrote several chapters of a book-length biography of comedian Richard Pryor for literary agent Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Agency (2005; currently writing it without representation). Contributed reporting to People magazine (issue of Feb. 7, 2005). Wrote and reported investigative piece (9/04 to 4/05) that suggest others had foreknowledge of the attacks (both the JTFF and the FBI have taken my findings seriously enough to have carried out their own investigations based on my findings; story published on this site as a web exclusive).
In non-journalism activities, I recorded a debut music album of 43 of my own original songs; self-released in January 2006, songs from the album have already been added to radio playlists in three nations. (Here is a link to my music site: http://pauliorio.blogspot.com.)
Wrote and reported feature story for the Cox newspaper syndicate (7/18/04); it was
originally published in The Austin American-Statesman and was picked up by Cox. Wrote and reported feature story for New Times (December 2003, for the Miami paper). Wrote, reported and researched exclusive music news story for Reuters's Los Angeles bureau (April to June 2003). Wrote a television feature involving extensive Internet research for The Toronto Star's Arts & Entertainment section (1/03); it is the only story anywhere to have covered the immediate television coverage of the first two plane crashes on 9/11. Wrote non-fiction book, "Conversations with Reclusive Geniuses (and Other Stories)," from January to September 2003 (still in development).
Wrote, reported, researched and initiated feature stories for The Washington Post's Travel section, including story involving foreign reporting (2000 to 2003.
I published seven of my own photographs in The Washington Post (2001, 2002); all ideas for stories I wrote for The Washington Post, usually mixing pop culture and travel, came from me. Some pieces still circulate years later on private and academic websites.
Wrote and reported features and news stories, mostly on television and movies, for The San Francisco Chronicle (3/97 to 6/00); initiated story and production ideas and
contributed photography. Reported news for L.A. bureau of the Reuters News Service,
covering criminal and civil trials of public figures such as O.J. Simpson and Pamela
Anderson. [Please note that I've always both written and reported my stories; the only exception was at Reuters from '97 to '99, where I only reported and co-wrote my stories, as is the custom in the most wire service newsrooms.]
Covered the movie industry's main Oscar night parties first-hand ('99 and '00, for The S.F. Chronicle). Was the first reporter anywhere to link Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche in print(4/97, The Chronicle). Contributed original photography to The Chronicle and initiated many story ideas (such as designing a movie board game for the newspaper that ran in the paper almost exactly as I sketched and wrote it). Contributed interviews with celebrities like Woody Allen who do not regularly talk to the press. For the Chronicle, I conducted the only interview with film director M. Night Shyamalan prior to the release of his blockbuster "The Sixth Sense" (keep in mind that almost nobody thought the movie would be a hit before its release).
Resume, page 2 of 3
For The Los Angeles Times, I wrote, reported and initiated four entertainment features (1/3/98, 9/1/98, 7/8/99, all on the front page of a section), the latter generating more reader response than any story that had run in the Weekend section; another article was carried nationwide the The L.A. Times's wire service. Through my own connections, I was able to land a rare interview with film director Roman Polanski for The L.A. Times (1999), resulting in a popular two-part article on the film Chinatown. Also for The L.A. Times, I wrote the first profile anywhere about actor Troy Garity.
[For more about the influence of my Los Angeles Times story about the movie "Chinatown," go to www.resumesidenotes.blogspot.com.]
Wrote and reported articles on movies directly for The New York Times's Arts & Leisure section (1/95 to 4/95; and 6/94); one story was subsequently syndicated nationwide in numerous major papers, another article republished in German newsweekly Die Woche. All stories initiated by me. Wrote and reported article on movies for The Washington Post (10/94), for which I interviewed surgeons and other medical professionals. Wrote cover story for L.A. New Times (7/96 - 10/96), featuring a rare, if brief, interview with comedian Richard Pryor. Penned satire for Details magazine (10/94).
In June 1996, I relocated to Los Angeles after living in and around Manhattan for 17
Wrote articles for both the old and new Spy magazine on movies, pop music and politics, including satiric and investigative pieces (I was on contract for Spy from 10/88 to 3/89; 6/91 to 8/91; 8/92 to 10/92; 9/93 to 12/93; 8/94 to 2/95). I exposed university presidents selling academic and honorary degrees; created the popular Dylan-o-Matic (by which people can write their own Bob Dylan lyrics); did investigative reporting involving the search of court records.
Also wrote stories on film for New York Newsday (1/93; 2/92 to 3/92; 7/92 to 8/92; 7/92 to 8/92). Scripted music news for Tel-Star TV, a syndicated music video television series (Fall seasons of '89 and '90). Contributed music reviews and features to The Street magazine (3/89 to 3/90). Wrote news story for The Village Voice (2/88) and features for Hits magazine.
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (S.F.)
Staff Writer and Reporter
May 2000 to January 2001
Wrote, reported and initiated features and news stories on television and movies, as well as on books, pop culture and the theater, usually under tight deadlines. Conducted daily interviews with entertainment and other public figures. Reported breaking news. Was one of the first writers anywhere to have proposed a story about the CBS blockbuster C.S.I. before the series aired (an editor vetoed the idea). My published interview with poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti revealed new details about the Beat literary movement (10/00; story still widely circulated on the Internet). Covered the television critics "tour" of new programs in Pasadena (7/00). I had a zero percent correction rate during my four years at The Chronicle and never once missed a deadline. In fact, I never once required or received a deadline extension for any story I wrote for the Chronicle. [A letter of recommendation from my main editor at The Chronicle (a senior editor), written after working with me for three years in '00, read in part: "Paul has an original way of approaching a story. His writing rarely needs much editing. And best of all, he is completely reliable."]
I had only two job titles at the Chronicle: freelance writer/reporter and staff writer/reporter. My sole job responsibilities during my four years at the Chronicle were writing, reporting, researching and initiating news stories and features (though in the final few weeks of my four years there, I also took on editorial duties that my editor was unable to perform because of his extended vacation).
[For more about my years at The San Francisco Chronicle, go to
Resume, page 3 of 3
EAST COAST ROCKER NEWSPAPER (N.Y.)
August 1987 to January 1990
Wrote weekly news, features and essays on pop music and the entertainment industry for Arts Weekly's two publications: The East Coast Rocker and Downtown. Was the first to write about several unsigned acts that later became successful (like rock band Phish).
[For more about my reporting of 1989 -- particularly my unpublished investigative reporting of 1989/1990 (which is some of my best) -- go to
CASH BOX MAGAZINE (N.Y.)
August 1985 to August 1987
Wrote and reported news, features and a weekly column on pop music and the
entertainment business, with emphasis on emerging music acts. Was first reporter at any trade publication to write about certain unsigned performers who later became successful (such as They Might Be Giants and Michelle Shocked) and wrote the first pieces anywhere on Paul Simon's "Graceland" and other hit albums. Conducted an interview with Fela Kuti that was apparently his first after being released from prison, did a Q&A with XTC's Andy Partridge (rare at the time), and interviewed pop culture figures ranging from Frank Zappa and Bill Graham to Ray Davies, Joseph Shabalala (of Ladysmith Black Mambazo) and Don Johnson. Was featured in a story in USA Today (1/8/86 and in 1987). Started using computer email in 1986.
MERRILL LYNCH & CO. (N.Y.)
Corporate Communications Writer (final position)
January 1982 to July 1985
Wrote and researched articles for home office house organs and newsletters at the firm's international headquarters (Sept. '84 to July '85). Contributed photography to ML publications. Started at ML in Business Planning Dept. (1/82 to 8/84, but full-time from 8/83) as assistant, until I was promoted to writer. During this period, also wrote satire for New York's East Village Eye newspaper ('81 to '84) and The Aquarian Weekly ('82).
DELL PUBLISHING CO. (N.Y.)
Delacorte Publicity Dept. -- 8/80 to 10/81
Assistant position also involved writing press releases, book synopses and author bios. [Moved to New York City in June 1979; held various interim positions in NY before landing the job at Dell.]
THE TAMPA TRIBUNE (FL)
Editorial Assistant -- 1/79 to 6/79
Assistant spot also involved compilation and minor editing of news briefs.
[Note: this resume lists no pro bono or volunteer work or positions. All positions labeled "staff" were full-time, and some of the freelance spots were also full-time.]
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, Gainesville
B.A., philosophy, high honors, 1979.
Philosophy studies emphasized aesthetics and phenomenology. Participated in creative writing program ('76 to '78), studying under novelists such as Harry Crews, while producing short stories. Studied art history in Florence, Italy, for six months in 1976; visited eleven countries, including Iron Curtain nations Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, traveling alone by local train from Florence to Istanbul and back. At U.F., I was technically in the class of '79, but my high scores on advanced placement tests enabled me to graduate with a B.A. degree early, in Dec. '78 (course credits from my studies in Florence, Italy, weren't counted until Jan. '79, so that's why I list my graduation year as 1979.) Organized both student-level and community-wide political activity (from ages 10 to 17, and independent of family) that was covered contemporaneously in newspapers, including in the main newspaper of my hometown of the early-1970s, Tampa, Florida (1974).