a one-act play by Robert Patrick
for Charles Terrell
c 2012 Robert Patrick #211 1837 N. Alexandria L.A. CA 90027 tel: (323) 360-1469 firstname.lastname@example.org IM: rbrtptrck
SETTING: An alcove at The Idol disco in New York. 1976.
CHARLES, lean, in his thirties. HE wears a brown bomber jacket, a plaid lumberjack shirt, tight jeans, paratrooper boots, one earring, aviators’ sunglasses. HE has a trimmed mustache and short—cropped hair. In other words, what was called a “clone.”
BOB chubby and middle-aged, wearing overalls, a T-shirt, sandals, and long hair, HE could not look less seventies.
CLAUDE, a radiant youth, but dressed from Sears-Roebuck, short-sleeved plaid shirt, loose jeans, loafers
(An alcove at The Idol disco in New York. 1976. If there is scenery, it would be a sort of elbow-height shelf covered with indoor-outdoor carpet, suitable for sitting on, lying on, or just leaning on while one watches the glittering crowd offstage. The acoustics in The Idol are fabulous; although the music is blaring from dozens of giant speakers, here in this alcove it is little more than a faint hard throbbing. The flashing banks of colored lights offstage luridly bathe anyone just entering this little space.)
(Onstage is CHARLES, lean, in his thirties. HE wears a brown bomber jacket, a plaid lumberjack shirt, tight jeans, paratrooper boots, one earring, aviators’ sunglasses. HE has a trimmed mustache and short—cropped hair. In other words, what was called a “clone.” HE is pulling on a joint and making no effort to conceal that fact.)
(BOB enters, chubby and middle-aged, wearing overalls, a T-shirt, sandals, and long hair, HE could not look less seventies. HE is followed by CLAUDE, a radiant youth, but dressed from Sears-Roebuck, short-sleeved plaid shirt, loose jeans, loafers, CLAUDE has hair longer than Lyndon Johnson’s but shorter than Jim Morrison’s; in other words, the small–town equivalent of “long hippie hair.” THEY both carry plastic glasses of juice.)
BOB: Oh, thank God, an underwater cavern where even the disco din can’t reach! I think my tomato juice has mutated. I feel thoroughly woofered and tweetered. How are you?
CLAUDE: All night I’ve been waiting to say, “Thank you.”
BOB: Well, and I thought you were just gasping for air in all the pot-smoke. But at last I can hear you. I still see strobes but at least I can hear you. Are you sure thanks are in order for getting you into this controlled catastrophe?
CLAUDE: I always thought New York would be magical. And one day here, and I meet a famous playwright and we go to his show and to the opening of the biggest disco in the world!
BOB: Well, happy nineteen-seventy-nine. My old roommate built the thing. He was this bright kid killing himself with drugs. I dragged him off the streets and into theater. Turned out to be a whiz at learning any construction technique. He used to build scenery for my plays. God, all I could ever give him was fifty bucks and my own inept assistance. They must have given him a million to erect this.
CHARLES: Two million. And all the boys I could eat. Hello, Bob.
BOB: Charles, my god! You’re so fashionable I didn’t recognize you! I’ve been looking for you all night. Thank you for the invitation! This place is magnificent.
CHARLES: I know. Who’s your young friend?
BOB: Claude, this is Charles, the man I was telling you about. He designed and built this place!
CLAUDE: Boy, two famous guys in one night.
CHARLES: I’m not famous. I don’t want to be. We’re not even allowing photographers in here, and we’re never going to advertise.
CLAUDE: But it’s such a wonderful place. Don’t you want people to know about it?
CHARLES: Everyone who matters knows about it.
CLAUDE: But why wouldn’t you want to be famous? What do you want?
CHARLES: Money and power. You must be new in town.
CLAUDE: I got here tonight. I went right down to La Drama to see the revival of “Chuck’s Luck.” And I met Mister-
CLAUDE: Mister Bob, and I told him I’d read “Chuck’s Luck” a hundred times, that all the gay kids at school passed a secret copy around in the dorm, it was like a Bible! And he said if I wanted to meet the real Chuck – Oh, God, that’s you!
CHARLES: No. That’s somebody Bob made up. I’m Charles. Bob. Did you have any trouble getting in?
BOB: No, I just showed them the invitation.
CHARLES: Yes. I told them to let you in in spite of your clothes. Ordered them to, actually. Claude. Is that what you wore on the bus?
CLAUDE: Yes, I didn’t have time to change my clothes.
CHARLES: That’s all right. I keep a lot of things here. Come here to the door and stand by me. (CLAUDE does.) Now look out there. Can you see two million dollars there?
CLAUDE: Well, yes, sure, I guess so. It’s beautiful.
CHARLES: And how did that theater you went to tonight look?
CLAUDE: Oh, it was wonderful. I’d read about it all my –
CHARLES: How did it LOOK?
CLAUDE: Well, it was just a little dumpy building on a side street.
CHARLES: Was it clean?
CLAUDE: Well, I don’t know, I didn’t –
CHARLES: Was it CLEAN?
CLAUDE: …Not really.
CHARLES: And how many people were there?
CLAUDE: Oh, it was full, there were –
CHARLES: How MANY?
CLAUDE: …I don’t know. It was full.
CHARLES: Was it the first floor or the second floor theater?
CLAUDE: The first floor.
CHARLES: Ninety-nine people. One hundred and ten if they illegally add another pathetic row of folding chairs. I know. I did lots of shows there with Bob.
CLAUDE: I know! I read “Chuck’s Luck!”
CHARLES: I know. Secretly. In the dark. Look out there! That’s two thousand people! And who was there at La Drama tonight?
CLAUDE: All kinds of people. I don’t know. Bob – ?
CHARLES: LOOK OUT THERE! That’s the editor of “Interview” Magazine. You must have seen “Interview” Magazine.
CLAUDE: Yes. sure.
CHARLES: They didn’t have to pass that around in secret in the dorm in the dark, did they? You must have seen a lot of these faces in it. And look over there. Do you recognize that movie star?
CHARLES: I invited him. And that rock singer?
CLAUDE: Where? Oh! yes!
CHARLES: I paid her to come. A fortune. And there’s Andy Warhol! You’ve seen him on talk shows and magazine covers!
CLAUDE: Is that really him?
CHARLES: And do you know who that is with him?
CLAUDE: No, I don’t. Who is it?
CHARLES: You don’t know? You’re a stupid, ignorant boy. I’m not sure I should take any trouble with you.
BOB: Come on, Claude, I’ll take you out of here.
CHARLES: Do you want to leave, Claude?
CLAUDE: Are y’all fighting? I don’t understand.
CHARLES: What ‘s there to fight about? You’re having a good time, aren’t you, Claude? You can go on out there and get lost in the crowd. Unless you’d like to stay here with the designer and owner of the hottest new spot in New York City.
CLAUDE: Oh, I’m having a wonderful time. I guess I just don’t understand anything.
CHARLES: Do you want to order him to leave, Bob?
BOB: I would never order anyone to do anything.
CHARLES: I know. Absolute freedom. Peace and love. We must have you in if we ever do a ‘sixties revival. Claude. A lot of people believed in that “peace and love” stuff. And they all found themselves starving in slums. With nothing but a great sense of humor. You must have seen people like that back home.
CLAUDE: Yes. My cousin had a hippy stepfather. He had to come back home and wash dishes in a diner.
CHARLES: Yes, Wasn’t that sad? They had such belief. They tore down the past. They just didn’t build anything. You wouldn’t ever want people to think you were a hippie, would you, Claude, some kind of leftover hippie?
CLAUDE: …I don’t know.
CHARLES: Believe me, you wouldn’t. I know. You get that kind of reputation and it locks you out of everything wonderful, everything exciting, everything big and shiny and new. And it’s easy to get fooled by it. Really easy. You can waste years.
CLAUDE: …I guess that’s right.
CHARLES: Don’t guess. Ask me. I know. Why do you wear those clothes, Claude?
CLAUDE: Well, I was traveling.
CHARLES: I think those are awful clothes. I wouldn’t be caught dead in those clothes.
CLAUDE: I’m sorry.
CHARLES: You know what kind of clothes I like, Claude?
CLAUDE: No, what?
CHARLES: What I have on, you asshole. Why would I be wearing these if I didn’t like them? Why would I wear anything but what I like best? Are you stupid?
CLAUDE: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to –
CHARLES: So when I see you wearing what you’re wearing, Claude, I assume it’s what you like to wear. I assume you’re sending out the message you like to send. Do you know what message you’re sending?
CHARLES: You’re sending out the message, “I’m a wimp, I’m a softy. I’m disorganized, I’m soft, I’m silly, I’m like a little girl, I let my mother dress me, I don’t have shit for brains, I don’t have any mind of my own.” Did you know that?
CLAUDE: No. I didn’t know.
CHARLES: Well, of course Bob wouldn’t tell you. He doesn’t judge people by their clothes. And if he did, he’s too kind too tell you something like that. What does what I’m wearing say to you, Claude?
CLAUDE: It looks great, like construction people.
CHARLES: I didn’t ask you how it LOOKS! I asked you what it SAYS! Does it say “Together” or “disorganized,” Claude?
CLAUDE: Together. It says, together.
CHARLES: And does it say “rich and successful” or does it say, “poor and afraid,” Claude?
CLAUDE: It looks rich – It says rich and successful.
CHARLES: AND does it say, “Butch and aggressive” or does it say, “Weak and passive,” CLAUDE?
CLAUDE: It says male. It’s very male.
CHARLES: DO you for some reason want to say, “I’m weak and soft and sissy,” Claude?
CLAUDE: No, no, I don’t.
CHARLES: So I don’t see why you want to wear what you’re wearing. Claude. It’s offensive. It offends me. It says you want to offend me.
CLAUDE: I don’t mean anything by it. I never thought about it.
CHARLES: You don’t mean ANYTHING. You never THOUGHT about anything. You’re saying you’re better than I am, that you don’t have to worry about what you wear in front of me, aren’t you?
CLAUDE: No, I never said that.
CHARLES: NO? That’s what I’M saying. I’m saying to every man that meets me, “I’m together, I’m tough, I’m successful, I’m superior, I’m smart, I’m where it’s at, I am the best, I am better than you are.” I’m telling you I’m better than you. And you know what?
CLAUDE: No, what?
CHARLES: You’re listening. You believe it. You know it. Am I being nice and friendly to you, am I being nice and friendly to a new kid in town?….AM I?
CLAUDE: No. No you’re not.
CHARLES: No, I’m not. Because I don’t feel friendly. I despise you. I feel sorry for you. You’re nothing. I don’t know why you wear clothes at all. You don’t know what they mean. You don’t care what they say. You might as well be naked, shouldn’t you? SHOULDN’T YOU?
CLAUDE: I – I guess so. (CHARLES glares.) Yes. Yes.
CHARLES: Well, then, I’d like to see you naked, Mister. I’d like to see you naked right now. Go on. Take off those stupid clothes. YOU HEAR ME? TAKE OFF THOSE CLOTHES!
CLAUDE: I – I can’t – we’re in public – this is public.
CHARLES: No, it’s not. This is private. This is mine. I own it. I designed it. I built it. I own it. You’re here by my permission. I own this. Everything here is mine.
CLAUDE: I – I guess it’s all right. (HE starts to disrobe.)
BOB: Claude, you. don’t have to do this.
CHARLES: No one has to do anything he doesn’t want to. We choose our lives. You hear that, Claude? We choose our lives. All of us. All three of us.
CLAUDE: No, it’s all right. (He continues disrobing. When HE is down to just his shorts.) I’m not very big.
CHARLES: That’s all right. It isn’t going to matter.
CLAUDE: All right. Just so you. know. (HE drops his shorts.)
CHARLES: Well, that’s a little better. Not much. Now, don’t you think you ought to kneel? (CLAUDE does.) That’s better. You don’t look so bad, kneeling. You ought to learn to do that. Now, I’m going to put a leash around your neck.
CHARLES (There is no actual leash): There, now, ignore that man. I’m putting a leash on you. Can you feel it?
CHARLES: I’m tightening the leash. Can you feel that?
CHARLES: Now, I’m pulling on the leash and it hurts. Feel that?
CHARLES: Now, listen to me. We don’t like little weak, stupid, effeminate boys in here. That’s old-fashioned. That’s dry shit. We like men in here, Big, strong, decisive, powerful, important men who aren’t fooled by anybody, men who know that everybody’s really out for number one, men who tell a boy what to do to survive in a terrible world, men that don’t fool a boy or mislead him, men that keep a boy on a leash where a boy likes to be kept, and lead him, men that look and dress and talk and sound and act like men. Do you hear me? I’m pulling that leash. Do you HEAR ME?
CLAUDE: Ungh. Oh! Yes. Yes, I hear you.
CHARLES: Now. Look down at the floor, at my feet. Now, if I let you speak, are you going to talk like a man?
CHARLES: If I let you stand up, are you going to walk like a man?
CHARLES: If I let you dress, are you going to dress like a man?
CHARLES: All right. Stand UP. (CLAUDE stands.) Now. If I let you live, are you going to live like a man?
CLAUDE: Yes. Yessir
CHARLES: All right. Now, go and stand by the door where everybody can see you. (CLAUDE hesitates.) I’m tugging that leash, Claude.
CLAUDE: Yessir. (HE goes to the door, HE is bathed in colored lights.)
CHARLES: Now, look over the heads of all those famous people, squint your eyes against the glare of a million dollars worth of flashing lights, look up there and you’ll see a little office window with some stairs leading UP to it. Do you see it?
CHARLES: Now, I’m going to let you walk through all those people and up those stairs and wait for me in that office. Do you hear me?
CHARLES: My leash stretches. You will be on my leash all the way.
CHARLES: DON’T answer until I ask you a question! Now, along the way you’ll pass a lot of people on the dance floor. And on that stairway you’ll pass through a lot of dark carpeted levels where there’ll be a lot of men. And you are to do anything which anyone on that floor or in that darkness tells you to, do you hear me?
CLAUDE: Yes sir.
CHARLES: All right. And then tomorrow we’ll get you some decent clothes and a haircut and you can start trying to grow a mustache. And then after a while we’ll see whether you’re worth saving. So ahead. (CLAUDE exits.)
CHARLES: Thanks, Bob. You were always very good at discovering new talent.
BOB: You’ve turned into a monster.
CHARLES: “Monster” means one of a kind. Bob, There are two thousand like me. Look out on that floor. How many are there, do you suppose, left like you?
BOB: I’m going to get him out of here.
CHARLES: Oh, he’ll do what you tell him to. Bob. I told him to. But he’ll come back here to that office like I told him to. Eventually.
BOB: You’re crazy.
CHARLES: No, I’m just a great construction man.
BOB: I ‘m sorry I saved you from drugs. (BOB exits.)
CHARLES: That makes two of us. No. That makes two thousand and two of us. (HE exits.)