;

SMOKE & STAINED GLASS MIRRORS

As regular readers of this column may have already sensed, Dr. Digit has been somewhat distracted of late by the publication of Bob's new book, The Laugh Makers from Bear Manor Media and now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Nobel.com. While the Good Doctor's creative output has been preempted by the extensive promotional duties inherent in his position of author's assistant, he managed in his spare moments (rare as they are) to file the following essay which we hope will restore him to your good graces.

_______________________________

SMOKE & STAINED GLASS MIRRORS

  • During my considerable time on this spinning planet, I have repeatedly observed an interesting, though somewhat unsettling, phenomenon: the more a person wishes to hide, the more clothing that individual will insist upon wearing whilst pursuing his or her chosen profession. An example is in order. Take your typical religious functionary, labeled within the salvation game "clerics,""ministers," "padres," or in some Old Testament-leaning cults, "biblophiles." These fellas -- and more and more it seems these days, gals, reluctantly admitted to the exclusive ranks of these dedicated Commandment Commandos -- most certainly must be singled out as amongst the worst offenders. This is more than likely because they embark upon their halo-hyping careers saddled with the most embarrassing moral and ethical detritus they understandably would prefer to see remain outside the awareness of the common man -- who are, lest they forget -- their primary marks.

  • Among this esteemed fraternity, the worst I would say are your Roman Catholics, whose now infamous branch of Christianity has been around longer than most of the others -- although Episcopalians aren't far behind with Mormons nipping at their sandaled heels. This Italy-headquartered cult has had more time to accumulate the mass -- pardon the pun -- of unsavory and totally despicable historical markers (Crusades, anyone? Spanish Inquisition? Roger Mahoney?) its proponents would naturally prefer to eliminate from historical memory, much as one would skim unsightly and health-threatening pond scum from the surface of an otherwise pristine swimming pool. In truth, whoever came up with the term "Holy Mother Church" to describe this gang of psalm-spouting proselytizers was close, but got it only half right.

  • On the other hand, at the opposite end of this spiritual spectrum, leaders of your more Johnny-come-lately cults, such as that founded by Ted Haggert, as one might expect, aren't burdened with nearly as many skeletons in the sacristy to conceal. As you no doubt recall, the Rev. Ted often preached dressed in a T-shirt, though these days I would suspect he'd prefer to pulpitate in a parka.

  • Let's examine the typical man-of-the-cloth (or should that be armor?) as he ascends the pulpit to address his "flock" -- often referred to in the religious press individually as "lambs" but let's be realistic here, sheep are sheep. Our High Mass Houdini will be attired in vestments (their term, not mine) consisting of layers of multi-colored gowns, capes, sashes, and scarf-like ribbons of Irish linen, Indian cotton, Chinese silk and other equally exotic fibers piled so snugly, one upon the other, the wearer's head very often can barely be seen poking out from this ever-so-symbolic pile of ecclesiastical laundry. Usually topping this bundle of biblical buffoonery is head gear of some sort, traditionally designed to extend some twelve to sixteen inches above the performer's mid-forehead, pointed at it tip much like that of of poison arrow wielded by a New Guinea tribesman and equally as fear-inducing to younger onlookers witnessing this choreographed, costumed ritual.

  • To further insure the observer's continued distraction, undecipherable Latin and Greek symbols are embossed willy-nilly upon the outer garments that are visible to (and are fully expected to dazzle) the adoring horde of assembled gullibles; add to this an artful array of chains, leather thongs, ropes and beads (some dangling sacred iconography in gold, silver and other precious and semi-precious metals and gem stones), as well as a jewel-encrusted staff that, if auctioned at Christies, would bring enough cash to buy Pittsburgh -- this guy is supposed to be a shepherd, remember -- and you have what appears to even the most Theologically cynical among us, a display of fraudulent fakery worthy of Penn & Teller on opening night at Caesar's. (History note: In the early 1920s, in clear violation of international trademarks held by the Vatican, the costume, with accessories, was adopted almost in its entirety, by the American branch of the Ku Klux Klan. Ed.)

  • Now, to further embellish the the illusion as well as complicate the observer's already-confused perception of it, carefully chosen sounds are subtly introduced to the mix. Bells have emerged as a traditional favorite throughout the centuries followed, in no particular order of preference, by the clanking of chains against brass incense-burners; the clacking of wooden, metal or ceramic beads, ideally accompanied by an annoyingly loud pipe organ in rhythm with, more often than not, the clapping of hands. The latter is a spontaneous, though fully programmed, response from the studio audience -- an outburst of piety professionally orchestrated and expertly integrated by our pulpited master-of-ceremonies to bring his con to an emotionally satisfying and visually impressive crescendo. Waft some smoke (referred to since the Nativity as "incense" but smoke is smoke) whilst chanting some equally elusive platitudes in a foreign tongue and the cover-up is complete.

  • But this mass (pardon the pun... again) indoctrination isn't over quite yet. The spiritual prestidigitation extends even further to the titles that these chuzpatic gospel gonzos cavalierly deign to award one another at intervals determined solely by the level of professional competence displayed by each during his soul-rescuing, scripture-spouting sojourn amongst the unsuspecting. Be warned. As difficult as this is for any rational, moderately-educated adult to process intellectually, these nattering nabobs of kneeling actually assign their palm-pressing brethren formal titles, designed to depict ascending amounts of reverence -- the genetically-inherited and job-acquired holiness, if you will -- shown by each.

  • Entry level rookies are designated "Reverend" which appears to reflect the minimum degree of reverence expected to insure uninterrupted employment. The reverend one is encouraged to freely dip into his run-of-the-mill (relatively speaking) font of saintliness as long as it takes to get really good at it. Assuming all goes according to traditional career path markers -- the Reverend's monastic moniker will, sooner or later, be kicked up a notch to Very Reverend." This representing, it would appear, your garden variety reverence with an additional dash of pizazz -- sanctity with extra oomph, or star power, if you prefer.

  • But, believe it or not, they don't stop here! There is yet one final and highly coveted achievement plateau reserved for those rare scripture shills who eventually (this commonly takes years of increasingly cloying platitude spewing) somehow manage to qualify for the gold ring awarded to the rare few possessing, and all the while displaying, the most reverence it's, by definition, humanly possible to exhibit. Not simply Reverend... not Very Reverend... but so reverend, so blessed with such an unseemly generous supply of reverence, it would be virtually impossible for the super pulpit pummler to be any more reverend than he already is! From now on, this homily huckster will be addressed in public as -- are you ready for this? -- Most Reverend!

  • When one stops to think about it, even the pope himself must make do with the considerably less lofty title "His Holiness." But that exalted and historically storied position comes with its own set of devinely-inspired perks (infallibility, anyone?) that, due to space limitations, will have to be addressed -- and, one would hope, roundly condemned and suitably pilloried -- in some future column.


(EDITOR'S NOTE: in 2008, 803 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests were filed against the Roman Catholic Church, an increase of 16% over the previous year. Since 1950, $2.6 billion in damages have been paid to sexual abuse victims by the Vatican.)

Grateful for your continued interest in his contributions to the blogosphere, Dr. Digit welcomes your comments, suggestions (yes, and even threats of eternal damnation, or at the very least being forced to sit through another Da Vinci Code sequel), which may be addressed to:

Jokesmith@peoplepc.com

Because I've always felt, whether the fatwa or whatever, the writer's
great weapon is the truth and integrity of his voice. And as long as
what you're saying is what you truly, honestly believe to be the case,
then whatever the consequences, that's fine. That's an honorable
position. -- Salman Rushdie
_____________________________________________


NOTE: THIS EXCITING ADVENTURE IS PHOTO-ILLUSTRATED। THE RARE PHOTOS THAT ACCOMPANY THE TEXT BEGIN ON PAGE 23.

________________________________________

(MUSIC: THEME IS CLOSE TO JAMES
MICHENER’S “HAWAII,” BUT DIFFERENT
ENOUGH TO AVOID ROYALTIES.)

(CREDITS ROLL OVER AERIAL SHOT OF
THE VAST INDIAN OCEAN SOMEWHERE
BETWEEN FIJI AND NEW ZEALAND. AS
CAMERA ZOOMS IN, A TINY SPECK ON
THE HORIZON REVEALS ITSELF AS A
GRAY, RUSTY TRAMP STEAMER. WE SEE
HER NAME ON THE STERN, "S.S.BAY
BUCHANAN" BELOW A PANAMANIAN
FLAG.)

(DISSOLVE TO: INT. CREW’S QUARTERS
DEEP WITHIN THE AGING SHIP’S HULL.
IT’S MARKED BY PEELING PAINT AND TWO
SMUDGED PORT HOLES. ASLEEP IN A
GENTLY SWAYING HAMMOCK IS BOB
CONROY, HALF OF THE VAUDEVILLE TEAM
OF "CONROY & O'GRADY." HIS PARTNER,
BING O'GRADY, ATTEMPTS TO SHAKE HIM
AWAKE.)

BING:
Junior! Wake up!

BOB:
(Groggy) Wha --?

BING:
Com’on… Up! Up! Chop! Chop!

BOB:
(Turns over)
You chop, I’ll saw. Wake me for the matinee.

BING:
There’s no matinee today… or any day.
We were fired. Remember?

BOB:
(Suddenly awake) Fired? Again?

BING:
You ingested too much grape of the vine, my boy.
We were handed our eight by tens over a week ago.
The Keith Circuit replaced us with a younger team.

BOB:
Oh yeah. The Burns & Allen knockoffs,
Olbermann & Maddow.

BING:
(mimicking) “Songs, Patter and Clever Chatter”…
Get dressed, Junior. We’ve got work to do.

BOB:
Like what? I thought you said --

BING:
Like start this movie for one thing. I think we
still owe it to the folks, don't you?

BOB:
Are we still with Paramount?

BING:
No. We’re now with United Artists. (to
audience) And I thought I my agent was
incommunicado.

BOB:
Same money?

BING:
No, but we got some back end points.

BOB:
What are back end points?

BING:
We get 10% off the Luncheon Buffet at Pickfair.
(displays small bottle) Hey, Snorkle Snout,
what’s this I found nestled in your duffle?

BOB:
(looks) Oh, that. Found it on the beach.
Thought it might have a message in it.

BING:
(removes cork) Well, well… let’s just have a
looksee…(peers into bottle) Nothing inside, but
there are some words printed on the neck…
(reads) "RUB… HERE... FOR… THREE… WISHES.”

BOB:
What are you waiting for, Dad? Lay some skin
on that Steuben.

BING:
Here goes...

(HE RUBS THE BOTTLE AND SUDDENLY
THERE’S A PUFF OF SMOKE. STANDING
THERE IS A TALL, ANGULAR WOMAN OF
ABOUT 40 WITH WAIST-LENGTH BLONDE
HAIR AND BONE STRUCTURE JUST THIS
SIDE OF SKELETAL)

BOB:
Wow! How’d you do that?

BING:
(demonstrates with bottle) Well, it’s all in the
wrist. See, you have to --

BOB:
Not you, Caboose Hips. (points) Her.

GIRL:
You rubbed?

BING:
Looks like a direct hit on your G-spot,
honey. What’s your name?

GIRL:
I am Dorothy LaCoulter, but you can
call me “Dot.”

BOB:
Owwww… Morse code. I’m getting your
message loud and clear, baby.

BING:
Down, Farquardt. There’ll be plenty of time
for hickeys in the sequel. (to Dot) Tell me,
honey, how did you fit through the neck of
that bottle?

DOT:
I’m skinny.

BOB:
(examining the merchandise) Grrrrr
There’s enough meat on those ribs for me.
I’m on the Jenny Craig.

DOT:
Actually, I’m anorexic.

BING:
Wouldn’t a few Blue Plate Specials at
Barney’s Beanery solve that?

DOT:
You’d think so, but every time I swallow food,
I barf up a liberal.

BOB:
She's bipartisan. I love that quality in a girl.

BING:
How did you get in there in the first place, honey?

DOT:
I advertised in Craig’s List for a roommate
and Barbara Eden answered.

BING:
Ah, a delightful lass. Tell me, did Babs ever solve
that bellybutton problem?

DOT:
She finally had one tattooed on. See, I
needed a roommate after I was banished
from the ancient kingdom of Neocontopia.
I was a princess there, third in line to the
throne.

BOB:
And you gave all that up for freelance
genie work?

DOT:
It’s a long story. Our kingdom was prosperous
and peaceful for over two hundred years before
we were attacked by the Bushies.

BING:
Sounds positively horticultural. Who are
these “Bushies” anyway?

DOT:
A tribe of war-loving natives from an under-
developed region of the kingdom called Texonia.
They subjected our fifedom to war, torture, false
imprisonment and economic unrest for eight years.

BOB:
Sounds like Time-Warner Cable. But why were
you banished?

DOT:
Two reasons. First, after supporting these evil
people -- I even wrote books about them and
promoted their vile deeds on television -- (aside)
I can't believe I debated Bill Maher. But then,
I had an epiphany, realized how vile I had become,
and threatened to expose their whole devil-inspired
world-conquering agenda.

BOB:
And they gave you the royal heave-ho
just for that?

DOT:
I also refused to enter an arranged marriage
engineered by my parents, the king and queen.

BING:
A shotgun job, huh. Who'd they book into
your honeymoon suite?

DOT:
I had a choice… Sir Knute of Gingrich or
a court jester named Glen Beck.

BOB:
A court jester married to a princess. What a
ground-breaking concept.

DOT:
Please. I need your help to return to my rightful
place as third in line to the throne. I don't
mean to be difficult, but I must insist that you
help me before I can grant your three wishes.

BOB:
We should have read the label more carefully.
I knew there was a catch. How are we supposed
to help? We couldn’t even manage to hold down
a job at Paramount.

BING:
Now keep your Huggies on, Junior.
Maybe there is a way we can help the lady.
I have an idea.

HOPE: It better last for at least an hour
and a half.

(CUT TO: AERIAL SHOT OF A TRUCK SPEEDING
ALONG A COUNTRY ROAD. AS THE CAMERA
MOVES CLOSER, WE SEE PRINTED ON THE
TRUCK’S SIDE: “CRYSTAL PLUNGE POOL
SERVICE - ESTHER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER.”)

(CUT TO: INT. TRUCK. BOB IS BEHIND THE
WHEEL AND BING SITS BESIDE HIM EXAMINING
A MAP OPENED ON HIS LAP. BOTH ARE DRESSED
IN AQUAMARINE JUMPSUITS WITH THEIR NAMES
EMBROIDERED OVER THE BREAST POCKET.
THEY WEAR MILKMAN-TYPE HATS WITH THE
“CRYSTAL PLUNGE” LOGO ON THE FRONT.)

BOB:
This is the craziest idea you’ve had yet!
I’ve never cleaned a pool and I haven’t
slept with that many bored housewives.

BING:
Well, son, maybe it’s time you learned.
Besides, it got us off that barnacle bucket,
didn’t it?

BOB:
Yeah, just when I was starting to enjoy
rickets.

BING:
And don‘t forget, Junior, we need those
three wishes if we ever want to play the
Palace again.

BOB:
Some genie. Just when we need her
to explain that map, she disappears.

BING:
She’ll be back by the next reel. She
promised her roommate she’d do a
cameo in an “I Dream of Jeannie”
re-run…
In the meantime, we’ve got to find
Blackwater Downs. (looks) According
to this, the turnoff is along here
somewhere.

BOB:
How do we even know it’s accurate?

BING:
Reliable source. My late uncle Nelson
left me the map in his will -- no bread,
just this along with a riddle that explained
its meaning that I could never crack...
until Dot filled in the missing piece.

BOB:
(To audience) Get it? “Nelson“… “riddle.”
He’ll do anything to plug his latest album…
How come you never mentioned him to me?

BING:
He was sworn to secrecy. Uncle Nels was a
contractor engaged by billionaire arms dealer
L. Grover Norquist to build a 60-room mansion.
The grounds were later converted into a training
complex for an ultra-secret paramilitary force
with plans to wage a “shadow war” in the
Middle East.

HOPE:
(to camera) If this is too much plot for you
folks, we’ll have a recap at intermission.

BING:
If we have any chance of helping Dot regain
her billing on the royal marquee, we’ve got to
find out who’s behind it, collect enough evidence
to satisfy the gendarmes and put them out
of business.

BOB:
Oh, is that all? Silly me, I thought we were
being foolhardy.

BING:
(looks) Bingo! There’s the sign. Turn in here.

(BOB GLIDES THE TRUCK OFF THE HIWAY AND
ONTO AN ACCESS ROAD. A SIGN BESIDE THE
ROAD READS: “BLACKWATER DOWNS -
AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY.” AS THEY BEGIN
THE DRIVE TOWARD THE ENTRANCE, WE SEE A
TRAINING FACILITY SIMILAR TO THE FBI’S IN
“SILENCE OF THE LAMBS”: CADETS MARCHING,
PRACTICING JUDO, RUNNING AN OBSTICLE
COURSE, ETC.)

BING:
This has the definite aura of Ian Fleming.

BOB:
Where’s “Top Job” when you need him?
And I let my “Gold’s Gym” membership
lapse.

(THEY REACH THE GATE, ON EITHER SIDE OF
WHICH IS A 15-FOOT TALL CYCLONE FENCE
TOPPED WITH MULTIPLE ROLLS OF RAZOR
WIRE. THERE ARE SEARCH LIGHTS AND
SURVELLIANCE CAMERAS. BOB STOPS THE
TRUCK, REACHES OUT AND PRESSES THE
BUTTON BENEATH A LARGE SPEAKER.)

SPEAKER (V.O.):
Yes?

BOB:
(into speaker) Two cheeseburgers, two
small fries, iced tea and a prune shake
if you make it thick, and maybe some
onion rings… yeah, toss in some rings.

BING:
(leaning across Bob) Better hold the onions,
Chief. We’re here to clean the pool.

SPEAKER (V.O.):
Where’s Alejandro?

HOPE:
He got the day off to have his green card
spruced up. It was starting to fade.

(THE MECHANICAL GATE SLOWLY OPENS.)

HOPE:
Am I wrong or was the Paramount gate
friendlier?

BING:
Relax, Junior. Haven’t you ever played
a pool man?

HOPE:
No, but I was once a feather-skimmer in
“Swan Lake.”

BING:
(checking map)
According to this, the pool is straight
ahead on the right, between the Donald
Rumsfeld Enhanced Interrogation Pavilion
and the Cheney Torture Learning Center.

BOB:
Gee, I wonder if there are any openings
Left in Sneering 1-A.

(THEY PASS THE TWO BUILDINGS.)

BING:
That’s the outdoor pool to the left. Pull
in there.

(THEY PARK AND GET OUT OF THE TRUCK.
BING SPREADS THE MAP ON THE HOOD.)

BING:
See, Junior, (points) we’re here and that’s
the Norquist mansion over there. (points)

HOPE:
(points down) And these are my feet
heading for the exit back there. This whole
place gives me the creeps.

BING:
Hey, don’t go Pee Wee Herman on
me now. We’ve got the perfect cover. We
just need to get into the house for a look
around.

BOB:
That house? Not me, Sherlock. I’m afraid
to walk through the Psycho house on the
Universal Tour.

(BING OPENS THE BACK DOOR OF THE TRUCK,
REACHES IN AND HANDS HOPE A FISHING
TACKLE BOX WITH “POOL TESTING SUPPLIES”
PRINTED ON THE SIDE.)

BING:
You carry this and I’ll take care of any rabid
bats.

(HE GRABS A LEAF NET HANGING ON THE SIDE
OF THE TRUCK.)

(CUT TO: THE BOYS AT THE FRONT DOOR OF
THE HOUSE. IT‘S HUGE: THREE STORIES,
COLLINADES, DORMER WINDOWS, AND A
TEN-CAR GARAGE, IN FRONT OF WHICH A
UNIFORMED CHAUFFEUR IS POLISHING A
WHITE ROLLS-ROYCE PHAETON.)

BOB:
(looking it over) That reminds me… I’ve
got to reserve Versailles for the summer.

BING:
(pressing bell) Now just act like you’ve
been around pools all your life.

HOPE:
Me? I wear water wings in the bathtub.
My mother was frightened by Johnny
Weissmuller.

BING:
There will be a slight delay while they
check our lighting on the surveillance
camera. (smiles toward camera) Com’on,
show ‘em those Pepsodent pearlies.

HOPE:
Not unless they‘re paying scale…
(turns to leave) That’s enough time.
They’re probably watching Fox News.
We’ll try again in the Spring.

(AS BING PULLS HIM BACK, A BUTLER IN
BLACK TIE AND TAILS OPENS THE DOOR.)

BUTLER:
May I help you?

BING:
Yes, my good man. We’re from Crystal
Plunge Pool Service, delighting customers
since 1936...

BOB:
“Chlorine With a Smile,” that’s our motto.

BUTLER:
(points) The pool is over there.

BING:
So it is… so it is, indeed. But we’re here
to… you tell him, Junior.

HOPE:
You’d better tell him. I don’t speak Arthur
Treacher.

BING:
(to butler) Actually, there seems to be
some sort of drainage problem.

BUTLER:
What kind of drainage problem?

BING:
Well, it appears that Mr. Norquist’s bath
water is somehow draining into the pool.

HOPE:
So far, it’s killed three carp and eaten
the chrome off the pool ladder.

BING:
We don’t wish to alarm you, but a diagnostic
drain check is, in our professional opinion,
necessary to avert a possible public health
emergency.

BUTLER:
Oh, I suppose it will be all right since
Mr. Norquist is away at the moment.
Come in.

(HE ESCORTS THEM TO THE FOOT OF A GRAND
STAIRCASE.)

BUTLER:
I’m watching a “Family Affair” rerun in the
kitchen. Call me if you need anything. The
master bath is at the head of the stairway
to the left.

(THE BUTLER LEAVES AND THE BOYS HEAD UP
THE STAIRS.)

HOPE:
Another Sebastian Cabot fan. Seem to be
everywhere these days.

BING:
While I try to find E. Grover’s office, you
keep an eye out in case Jeeves comes
back.

(BING DISAPPEARS DOWN THE HALL)

HOPE:
(calls after him) Write if you get work…
(aside) I wonder if Woodward and Bernstein
started this way.

(HE SPOTS A FRAMED PAINTING HANGING ON
THE WALL. HE SQUINTS TO READ THE TITLE
PLAQUE.)

HOPE:
(reads) “Guard Dogs Playing Poker at
Abu Gharib.”

(DOWNSTAIRS, THE FRONT DOOR OPENS AND A
YOUNG GIRL OF ABOUT TWELVE ENTERS. SHE
PLACES HER SCHOOL BACKPACK ON A TABLE
BESIDE THE DOOR AND HANGS UP HER COAT
AND HAT. SHE LOOKS UP AND SPOTS HOPE AT
THE TOP OF THE STAIRS.)

HOPE:
(calling down) If your peddling Thin Mints,
I’m on a low Girl Scout cookie diet.

GIRL:
(climbing the stairs) I live here. I’m Melissa
Norquist. You one of daddy’s mercenaries?

HOPE:
Me? No, I flunked the physical. I have a
Purple Heart murmur. I’m the pool inspector.
We’re checking -- uh -- banister safety this
week.

(HE GRABS BANNISTER AND JIGGLES IT.)

HOPE:
Can’t be to careful. We’ve had reports of
of staircase injuries in this area.

GIRL:
Where’s Alejandro?

HOPE:
Oh, him. He’s in the ER being treated for
a near-fatal algae overdose.

(THE GIRL PASSES HOPE AND HEADS DOWN THE
HALLWAY OPPOSITE THE ONE BING TOOK.)

GIRL:
Better finish up soon. The guests will start
Arriving in less than an hour.

HOPE:
Guests?

GIRL:
For daddy’s annual “Hallelujah Halliburton
party. Everybody who’s anybody in the war-
for-profit industry will be here. We’re so
excited. Guns & Ammo Magazine is doing a
cover story on it this year.

HOPE:
Just my luck. My formal fatigues are at
the cleaners.

GIRL:
It’s so cool! After dinner, they put on a
fireworks display with the latest ground-to-air
missile launchers.

BOB:
Bombs bursting in air. I know the feeling.

(BING COMES DOWN THE HALL WAVING A FILE
FOLDER. HE DOESN‘T SEE THE GIRL.)

BING:
Junior! Wait until you lock your twenty-
twenties on this!

HOPE:
(nodding toward girl) Ixnay on the aisle fey.

BING:
(spots girl, opens file, pretends to read)
The drain seems normal. A little of what we
term in the industry “follicle backup,” but
that’s to be expected in a house this age.
Yes siree, definitely a clean bill of health
drain-wise...

HOPE:
(to girl as she moves away) Thanks
for the tip. Must rush off now to freshen
up.

BING:
(whispers as they go down the stairs)
Junior, I found a list of all the civilians
Blackwater has killed in Iraq!

HOPE:
That's nothing. I just found out how we
can meet the thugs who did it.

(AS BING AND BOB DESCEND THE STAIRCASE, WE: FREEZE FRAME.)

BOB: (V.O.)
This was nothing new. Bing and I
had been out to top each other
from the very first time we met...
on the first day of school at Our
Lady of Perpetual Indoctrination.

(MUSIC UP: SCOTT JOPLIN STRIDE PIANO.)

(SUPER ON BLACK MATTE: "Cleveland, Ohio, 1921")

(CUT TO: EXT. SCHOOLYARD. TWO YOUNG BOYS ARE FIGHTING, THEIR BIKES PARKED NEARBY. AS THEY WRESTLE ON THE ASPHALT, MONSIGNOR MAURICE FITZGIBBON, 70-YEAR OLD PASTOR, EMERGES FROM THE PRIESTS' HOUSE AND SEPARATES THEM. HE'S THE STEREOTYPICAL PRE- CHILD MOLESTING CATHOLIC CLERIC, DISTINCTLY IRISH WITH A SPEECH PATTERN FALLING SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BARRY FITZGERALD AND FRANK McCOURT.)

MONSIGNOR:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Saints
alive! Cease the violence this instant!
(grabs each by an earlobe and yanks
them to their feet) Now which one of
you started this?

BING/BOB:
(pointing) He did!

BING:
He called me "Lard Butt"!

BOB:
And he made fun of my nose!

MONSIGNOR:
(straightening their ties) Well, I can
see some justification in both cases,
but this behavior is unacceptable for
boys your age. Where do you think
you are, Akron?

BING/BOB:
No, Monsignor.

MONSIGNOR:
If
mother superior, Sister Necrophelia,
were to hear of this, you'd be kept
after school until the Feast of the
Enlarged Prostate of Jesus. Now
shake hands like good lads and I
promise not to mention it to her.
It will be our secret.

BING/BOB:
Thank you, Monsignor.

MONSIGNOR:
Tell me now, what are your names?

BING:
I'm Harry Lillis O'Grady and he's
Leslie Townes Conroy.

MONSIGNOR:
Harry and Leslie... (shakes his head)
well, that won't do. Let's see... (studies
them)... From now on, you're "Bing"
and "Bob." Yes, that's much better.

BOB:
Better? For what?

MONSIGNOR:
The marquee, of course. I'm casting
you both in the school play.

(CUT TO: MARQUEE IN FRONT OF THE SCHOOL: "DEATH OF A SALESMAN" STARRING BING O'GRADY AND BOB CONROY.)

BOB: (V.O.)
So that was how it began. The monsignor
took us under his wing and until we
graduated, made sure we got the best
parts in all the school plays. It wasn't
the Actors Studio, but it was a start.

(CUT TO: BOB ON STAGE AS WILLIE LOMAN. HE'S BEEN CALLED TO THE BOSS'S OFFICE.)

BING:
(behind desk) Willie, I'm sorry but
your sales are down for the third year
in a row. I'm afraid we're going to
have to let you go.

BOB:
After all I've given to this company?
Can't I have just one more chance?
There's one thing left that I've never
tried selling.

BING:
What's that?

BOB:
Toothpaste.

(AUDIENCE ROARS.)

(CIT TO: BING ON CARDBOARD BALCONY IN DRAG AS JULIETTE. BOB AS ROMEO KNEELS IN THE GARDEN BELOW.)

BING:
Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou
Romeo?

BOB:
I'm down here, sweetie, but this is
going nowhere.

BING:
Why, dearest?

BOB:
Because I'm a Montague and you're
a Capulet.

BING:
I'm not a Capulet. My mother's name
was "Steinberg."

(AUDIENCE ROARS)

(CUT TO: BING AND BOB ON STAGE. HOKEY CARDBOARD ROMAN COLISEUM SET. BING DRESSED AS JULIUS CAESAR AND BOB AS BRUTUS.)

BING:
Friends, Romans, countrymen... give
me your ears!

BOB:
(aside to audience) Yeah, like he needs
an extra set!

(AUDIENCE ROARS)

(CUT TO: INT. NUN'S QUARTERS. SISTER NECROPHELIA SITS FOR AN INTERVIEW.)

SISTER:
If you want my honest opinion, they
were two of the strangest boys we
ever had at Our Lady of Perpetual
Indoctrination. Not troublemakers
exactly, but you had to keep your
eye on 'em. Like that little one... the
one with the ears... his classmates
called him "Der Bingle"... always
humming "White Christmas" I think
it was... over and over. Got so we
dreaded the Holidays. And his
partner... the one with the pope's
nose... a real ladies'man... charmer
he was... and age didn't seem to
matter. We finally had to change the
locks on the postulates' bedrooms.
A real threat to our vow of Chastity...
(smiles) although in his own way, he
could make a woman feel... (recovers)
I'm sorry... where was I... ?

(CUT TO; BOB AND BING AS PARTY CLOWNS. THEIR AUDIENCE IS A GROUP OF 5 AND 6 YEAR OLDS, SITTING ON THE FLOOR INTENTLY WATCHING BING AS HE ATTEMPTS TO MAKE A BALLOON ANIMAL.)

BOB: (V.O.)
After high school,we kicked around
the midwest, taking whatever jobs we
could find. We'd do anthing as long
as it was in show business. We were
doing okay until that kids' party in
Des Moines when Bing took a wrong
twist on his balloon...

BING:
Watch closely, kids! I'll give you a hint.
This little guy belongs to Charlie Brown...

(BING'S "SNOOPY" SUDDENLY TURNS INTO A FULLY-ERECT, HUGE GREEN PENIS WITH A LARGE SCROTUM DANGLING BENEATH.)

BING: (CONT'D.)
Oops... looks like Snoopy turned into
a public health demonstration. Can you
say "sexually transmitted disease"?

BOB: (V.O.)
Just then, the birthday kid's dad walked
in and...

(DAD STARTS CHASING BING WHO FLEES INTO THE BACK YARD.)

(FLIP SCREEN: TWO UNIFORMED COPS ORDER BING TO CLIMB DOWN FROM THE TREE IN WHICH HE'S PERCHED. THE COPS HANDCUFF BOTH BOYS, AND AS THEY'RE LED OFF, THE KIDS CHEER.)

BOB: (CONT'D.)
After we were paroled, it really got
tough finding work as registered
sex offenders so we did the only
thing left... we enlisted in the
Salvation Army.

(CUT TO: EXT. FOURTH OF JULY PARADE. THE BOYS, IN UNIFORM, MARCH WHILE PLAYING TROMBONES WITH WHICH THEY GOOSE THE LINE OF FEMALE TAMBOURINE PLAYERS IN FRONT OF THEM.)

BOB: (CONT'D.)
We were given the first Court Martial in
Salvation Army history.

(CUT TO; INT. COURTROOM. FIVE SALVATION ARMY OFFICERS SIT AS JUDGES. BING AND BOB SIT IN THE DEFENDANTS' BOX GUARDED BY TWO ARMED SALVATION ARMY SERGEANTS. AMY SEMPLE McPHERSON IS ON THE STAND BEING EXAMINED BY CLARENCE DARROW.)

BOB: (CONT'D.)
The trial lasted for three weeks and our
lawyer, Clarence Darrow, called twenty
character witnesses including Amy
Semple McPherson, Sister Necrophelia
and Monsignor Fitzgibbon. But it was
all for naught...

(CUT TO: NEWSPAPER HEADLINE INSERT: "Pair Convicted of Sexual Harassment With Musical Instruments!")

BOB: (CONT'D.)
We were found guilty on all five counts

of felony assault with a trombone and
sentenced to three years distributing
pamphlets...

(CUT TO: INT. AIRPORT LOBBY. THE BOYS, IN ORANGE JUMPSUITS HAND RELIGIOUS TRACTS TO ARRIVING PASSENGERS WHILE ARMED SALVATION ARMY GUARDS WATCH THEM TRY TO COMPETE WITH HARI KRISHNAS.)

(CUT TO; SALVATION ARMY LIEUTENANT COLONEL BASIL HUME-BENTLEY SITS AT HIS DESK, TWO AMERICAN FLAGS BEHIND HIM.)

HUME-BENTLEY:
Frankly, I don't think either of them
was prepared for military life. They
both seemed to resent the physical
training required and claimed they
had joined for the travel and to meet
girls. Let me tell you, they weren't
happy with theit first duty assignment
at Macy's. I did reassign them... but
they were no happier at Gimbel's.
Those two craved adventure and, I'm
sorry to say, if they ever get themselves
into a situation that offers more danger
than saving souls... well... God help
them.

(LAP DISSOLVE: L. GROVER NORQUIST’S ANNUAL “HALLELUJAH HALLIBURTON” PARTY IS WELL UNDERWAY. THE GUESTS, IN BLACK TIE, MINGLE IN THE MANSION’S BALLROOM WHERE A COCKTAIL RECEPTION PRECEDES DINNER. A SMALL BAND PLAYS ON A RISER AT ONE END OF THE ROOM: SIXTIES HITS LIKE “UP, UP AND AWAY,” “DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES,” AND “MOON RIVER.” A FEW GUESTS DANCE, BUT MOST “WORK THE ROOM” AS IT HAS, AFTER ALL, BEEN A YEAR. AS THE CAMERA SWOOPS IN FROM ABOVE, WE OVERHEAR SOME OF THE COCKTAIL CHATTER.)

RUMSFELD:
(to Condi) Hey, babe! Long time, no
squeeze, doll! How be you?

RICE:
I’m grooving’, dude. You’re looking
particularly studly.

RUMSFELD:
Hey, at 77, one must deal with the body
one’s been dealt. (laughs, sips his martini)

(CAMERA CATCHES RUSH LIMBAUGH JUGGLING A STACK OF TOOTHPICKED MINI-WEENIES WHILE BALANCING FOUR COCKTAILS ON A TRAY. AS HE THREADS HIS WAY THROUGH THE CROWD, WE SEE ANNE COULTER, LAURA ENGLE AND MARY MATELIN EGGING HIM ON. HE ARRIVES AND HANDS OUT THE GOODIES.)

ENGLE:
Hey, Rushman, you’ve got some cool
moves for a porkster.

RUSH:
Dancing around the facts has its
advantages, my child. (hands her a
drink) Apple marti… right?

COULTER:
Way to go, Rushbo… you’re as light
on your feet as Fred.

MATELIN:
Astaire?

COULTER:
Flintstone.

(THE GIRLS LAUGH)

RUSH:
This calls for toast. (hands tray with
his scotch & soda on it to Matelin) Here,
hold this.

(HE CAREFULLY REMOVES A PRESCRIPTION MEDICINE BOTTLE FROM HIS JACKET POCKET AND EMPTIES ABOUT SEVEN TABLETS INTO THE GLASS.)

(CUT TO: OUR HOST, L. GROVER WHO GRABS THE MICROPHONE ON THE BANDSTAND.)

NORQUIST:
Welcome, everyone, to our twelfth annual
Halliburton Hoedown!

(CHEERS.)

NORQUIST: (CONT’D.)
First off, I’d like to extend our special
thanks to the Cheneys, Dick and his
lovely bride, Lynn, for cutting short
their attendance at the International
Parents of Lesbians Convention in
Brussels to be with us tonight…

(MUCH APPLAUSE AS DICK AND LYNN WAVE.)

NORQUIST: (CONT’D.)
And I’m proud to be able to announce to you
tonight that, statistically, war has surpassed
floods, famines and pandemics as the leading
cause of death worldwide… take a well-
deserved bow!

(WILD CHEERING. GUESTS ARE SHAKING HANDS AMONGST MUCH BACK PATTING. CAMERA HONES IN ON L. PAUL BREMER WHO‘S STANDING BESIDE CLARENCE THOMAS.)

BREMER:
Judge, if this doesn’t make you happy
to be an American, we’ve been wasting
our time.

THOMAS:
I feel like I’m watching the Fourth
of July parade back in Pinpoint.

BREMER:
Pinpoint?

THOMAS:
The town I told them I was born in.
At the confirmation hearings…
remember?

BREMER:
Oh, yeah. Nice choice. A town so hard
to find, nobody could check. How’d you
come up with that, anyway?

THOMAS:
When I was selling porn on line, I had
a PO box there. (spots Bremer’s boots)
You still wearing those things?

(CAMERA PULLS BACK AND WE SEE HE’S SPORTING THE SAME MUDDY BOOTS HE WORE IN BAGHDAD WITH HIS $3000 ARMANI SUITS.)

(CUT TO: BALLROOM KITCHEN. WAITERS AND WAITRESSES SCURRY ABOUT AS CHEFS REPLENISH THEIR TRAYS WITH AN ASSORTMENT OF HORS D’OEUVRES. THEIR BOSS, MAURICE, FOUNDER OF “THE GOURMET SOUFLE,” IS EXPERIENCING A HISSY FIT.)

MAURICE:
Somebody? Anybody? Toss me a small
bone here, people! Surely, one of you has
seen them. (all shake their heads) No?
Dammit to hell spit! Every time I hire
someone without the usual vetting process,
I get pissed on! I’m going to lose the
richest contract I’ve ever had!

WAITRESS:
Mr. Maurice, they’re new and that‘s a huge
crowd out there. I’m sure they just got lost
on their way back to the kitchen. Where
else could they be?

To be continued…












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