A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor

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Guy Noir script


Tim Russell: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the 12th floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions — Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME UP AND OUT)

Garrison Keiloor: It was summer in St. Paul and as usual I was low on cash so when I got a call from Holland America Line asking me to come and work security for them on the ms Maasdam, I couldn't pack my jammies fast enough. I've done a few jobs on cruise ships. I once solved a case of a starving passenger aboard the SS Colossus (BIG BOAT HORN) which carries 5000 passengers and a crew of 14 — a no frills cruise — where they shovel big forkloads of food into long stainless steel troughs (SLOP AND SQUOSH) — and small sensitive people tend to go hungry (FN MIDGET: Would somebody please pass me a potato? Please? ) I also worked the SS Babylon with 40 passengers and a crew of 386 (ELEGANT HORN) —where you had people to dress you and brush your teeth (SFX) and chew your food for you. (SFX) I even worked an Evangelicals cruise, the SS Deliverance on which they had a couple of elephants (SFX), a couple of walruses (SFX), two hyenas (SFX), two lions (SFX), two calling birds (SFX), three French hens (SFX), four turtle doves (SFX), and so forth. I met the Maasdam in Boston and found the ship loading up with a a hundred tons of mineral water—(FORK LIFT, BACKING)—(FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)

TR (DUTCH): Mr. Noir — I'm Hans Brinker from Holland America, I'm the one who called you.

GK: Yes. What's with the Perrier?

TR (DUTCH): It's a public radio crowd, Mr. Noir.

GK: So your bar isn't doing much business, huh?

TR (DUTCH): We're not selling much bourbon this week. Bordeaux but no bourbon. But our problem is rum, Mr. Noir.

GK: Rum.

TR (DUTCH): A barrel of rum is missing from the hold.

GK: Pirates.

TR (DUTCH): I'm afraid it's an inside job. And we've never had employee theft before. Never. Not a single instance.

GK: So that's why you called me.

TR (DUTCH): The reputation of Holland America is at stake and if we don't catch whoever is responsible — word gets around in the cruise business. We might have to sell our ships to Dubuque—

GK: Iowa?

TR (DUTCH): As riverboat casinos. Dubuque is aiming to be the Las Vegas of the Midwest.

GK: I'll do my best, Mr. Brinker. (BRIDGE) I walked around the ship — walked by the swimming pool (DIVING BOARD, SPLASH) and ping pong tables (SFX) and the Jacuzzi (SFX) —I was on my way to the aft deck when a woman called me over —

Sue Scott: Excuse me? Sir?

GK: Yes, ma'am.

SS: You're a staff person?

GK: Yes? Sort of—

SS: Good. Listen. I have GOT to be in the talent show tomorrow night and I need to get to one of the judges — it's terribly important. I do the William Tell overture while gargling— let me show you. (FN GARGLES WOMAN'S RENDITION OF WM TELL)

GK: Thanks. I'll let them know to expect you. (FOOTSTEPS AND BRIDGE) I walked out on the aft deck and there was a couple standing at the rail smoking their cigarettes — and drinking drinks — and I detected the smell of rum. (FOOTSTEPS) Excuse me—

TR: Yes?

GK: I wonder if I could borrow a smoke from you?

TR: Oh, of course. Here. — Need a light? (LIGHTER)

GK: Thanks. (HE INHALES) Mmmmm. Good. Haven't had one in twenty years. I loved smoking. All that lung cancer stuff — that's all made up by the candy industry.

SS: I've heard that.

GK: Lung cancer is caused by the fear of lung cancer. Same as alcoholism. Ask any doctor and he'll tell you. If he's had a few drinks, he will. Speaking of which— where'd you get the rum? Sure smells good.

TR: Rum? What rum?

SS: This isn't rum, it's a cabernet sauvignon—

GK: Smells like rum.

TR: That's the bouquet. It has a long finish and a bouquet of raspberries, plums, rhubarb, and rum.

GK: Oh. Okay. Where'd you get it?

SS: We can't tell you—

TR: Who are you? You're with the boat, aren't you?

GK: Look— sometimes it's better to come clean with the truth instead of stonewalling —

SS: Did you know my husband does a great Willie Nelson impression? He's on the talent show tomorrow night—

TR (SINGING): Hello walls — how'd thing go for you today? (BRIDGE)

GK: I walked topside and there was a man driving golf balls into the ocean (SWING, CONK. SWING, CONK. SWING, CONK, FLIGHT OF BALL, CRY OF SEAGULL) You seem to have struck a seagull, mister—

TR (BUSH): That's not a seagull, it's a tern. But it's the wrong tern. I was aiming at the other one. Heh heh heh heh heh heh. Joke.

GK: Mr. President?

TR (BUSH): How ya doin? Want me to give you a nickname? How about I call you Sleepy? Or Dopy? Heh heh heh heh heh heh.

GK: Whatever made you want to come along on a public radio cruise, Mr. President?

TR (BUSH): Y'ever spend a lot of time with Republicans?

GK: Some.

TR (BUSH): Not the most open-minded people you'd ever want to meet. Right?

GK: But they're all crazy about you, Mr. President.

TR (BUSH): That's because they never spent time with me. Never got to know me. Find out what I'm like.

GK: So you're —

TR (BUSH): I came on this trip on account of that band they got. Bo-so-lay.

GK: The French band.

TR (BUSH): French is my passion, monsieur. (BUSH SPEAKS FRENCH)

GK: But don't people recognize you on the boat, Mr. President?

TR (BUSH): Not when I'm speaking French, they don't. (BUSH SPEAKS FRENCH) (BRIDGE)

GK: I headed below decks — I'd been hired to find out about a missing barrel of rum and that's what I meant to do. I headed for the shopping arcade, and on my way there—

Fred Newman: Excuse me. You're from the staff, right? I thought so. I'm Lurleen Blunt—

GK: You want to get on the talent show, right?

FN: I play tunes on a fire extinguisher.

GK: I don't think that's a good idea—

FN: I play "Claire de Lune" —

GK: Please. Not now.

FN: It only takes a moment.

GK: You're liable to set off a fire alarm.

FN: I'll only play a few bars.

GK: I'd rather you didn't. (CLAIRE DE LUNE ON FIRE EXTINGUISHER) I got away from her and was walking through the casino and noticed the blackjack dealers standing by their tables, arms folded, looking blankly at me— excuse me?

Erica Rhodes: Yeah? What do you want?

GK: You dealing?

ER: You're going to play?

GK: I got a hundred bucks trying to jump out of my pocket.


GK: She was beautiful. Her raven tresses fell across her bare shoulders like chocolate sauce on a hot fudge sundae, and suddenly I had a craving for sweets.. Her blouse was so tight I could hardly breathe and it was so sheer I could see the feather in her pocket. It looked like a feather from a headdress that a showgirl might wear in an all-girl revue — We played blackjack for (SHUFFLE CARDS) awhile and then she looked both ways and leaned toward me and—

ER (SECRETIVELY): You're not with this public radio bunch, are you?

GK: No.

ER: Glad to hear it.

GK: Not a big bunch of wild gamblers are they.

ER: Ha. They walk by the casino as if we were ambassadors of the Anti-Christ lusting for the souls of the innocent. You'd think we were engaging in ritual sacrifice and worshipping the Dark One. What's wrong with turning up a few cards to see what you have in your hand? They look at us as if we have hooves.

GK: Tough on you, huh?

ER: I mean, when the Baptists charter the boat, they say, No gambling, and all the dealers switch over to Parcheesi. But these people — they're just as close-minded but they don't know it.

GK: Miss—

ER: Tonin. Sara Tonin.

GK: You wouldn't happen to know where I could get a nice rum drink, would you?

ER: Why ask me?

GK: I thought you might know.

ER: Ask a bartender.

GK: They only have single-malt Scotch and wine with a long finish and a bouquet of rhubarb and chrysanthemums.

ER: You want rum?

GK: I really need a good rum and coke.

ER: I thought only college girls drank rum and coke.

GK: Could I get one if I carried a pompon?

ER: I'll talk to Rico. See what I can do. (BRIDGE)

GK: It was interesting, being on the cruise. The dominant group, of course, was the folk-singing, birdwatching, organic, co-op, quasi-Unitarian, New Yorker, Anglophile element, but if you hung around the Crow's Nest long enough, you discovered dissident groups.

TR (RICH GUY): Hey— a bunch of us Republicans are meeting at midnight in club HAL — Friends of George W. Pass it on.

GK: There were plenty of dissenters in the crowd, as I discovered.

FN: Hello, my name is Margaret Spivak. I wonder if I might speak with you about a protest I am organizing. We are going to chain ourselves to the dining room doors to protest the destruction of animal life that this ship is engaged in. Do you realize the suffering that a lobster goes through? Do you? Have you heard one scream? I have some photographs of calves and how veal is produced.

GK: I'm busy tonight, but thanks for thinking of me.

SS: (DEEP) Hello. I wonder if I could talk with you for just a moment about the Second Coming and the Lord's plans for you during the Millenium—

GK: You're a Jehovah's Witness, aren't you.

SS (DEEP): Yes, I am.

GK: And you're going to want to give me a copy of The Watchtower, aren't you.

SS (DEEP): Would you like a copy?

GK: Thank you, but no. I have a number of copies at home that I haven't read yet, so I think I should take care of those first.

SS (DEEP): Oh. Okay. — I could sit down and read it to you aloud, if you'd like.

GK: No, thanks.

SS (DEEP): Would you mind filling out a questionnaire so we can better serve you in the future?

GK: I can't. I'm busy relaxing.

SS (DEEP): It'll only take a minute.

GK: I can't. Sorry.

SS (DEEP): If you fill out the questionnaire, I'd be happy to give you a year's subscription to the Watchtower.

GK: Maybe some other time.

SS (DEEP): How about if I come back in fifteen minutes?

GK: No.

SS (DEEP): Thirty minutes?

GK: How about ten years? (BOAT HORN)

ER: Pssst. Mr. Noir— it's me. Sara Tonin.

GK: You know, I really could use that rum drink right now—

ER: Follow me. (BRIDGE)

GK: She took me down to A deck and we went through a door marked Staff Only and into the ship's laundry and back into a long room that was dark and (BAND BUILD) a band sat at one end on a stage and a little crowd of people sat around tables with little candles in red goblets and I could smell rum. Up on stage were three tall women in Tahitian costumes dancing. ER, PJ, SS: Let me entertain you
Let your time be frittered
I got some hot stuff
And it is not stuff
You'd hear on All Things Considered.
Let me make you smile
As I take off my clothes
For the tips you gimme
I'll shake and shimmy
Cause I'm not Terry Gross.


GK: The customers were eating barbecue ribs and smoking cigarettes and the smell of rum was in the air and I could see Sara Tonin was shuffling the cards for a hand of poker. The dancers in the Tahitian outfits were dancing and people seemed to be enjoying themselves. (MUSIC FADES) I headed topside — in the Library, Jon Arrison was giving a talk about maritime history —

TR: ......in 1755 the advance force of the British under General Postlethwaite reached Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin and this began the chapter that we now think of as the Battle of .....

GK: And on the Lido deck, Ingvar Sodal was leading a group in a Norwegian shepherd's dance..... (TR NORWEGIAN, DANCE RHYTHM, W. STOPS AND BAAING) ......and in the Crow's Nest Beausoleil was playing outdoors Rich and Natalie the naturalists were identifying the enormous black birds (BIRDS) who had been circling overhead for some time and also the dolphins who had (DOLPHINS) gotten aboard somehow and were circulating among the passengers singing (DOLPHINS) .....for some reason, the naturalists didn't notice the two mallards singing Jimi Hendrix (PURPLE HAZE).

GK: And in the Ocean Bar, a blonde chanteuse was doing a program of Nova Scotia show tunes.....

PJ: (SINGS) Somewhere over the fog bank
There's sunshine
Somewhere my lover's calling
Deep in a dark coal mine......

GK: And in the Wajang Theater, Fred Newman was showing a crowd of people how to do a toilet flush..... (FN FLUSH, OTHERS FLUSH) — I walked out on the Promenade deck. (GULLS, WAVES, SHIP'S HORN) There are all sorts of ways people make themselves happy. When you're young, you want people to be idealists like you, and when you get older, you realize that people are just people, that's all.

TR (BUSH): Hey— you're not in charge of that talent show, are you?

GK: Why do you ask, Mr. President?

TR (BUSH): I've been working up a little something on the chainsaw.

GK: You play music on your chainsaw?


SS: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets but on the 12th deck of the ms Maasdam, one man is looking for the answers to life's persistent questions.....Guy Noir, Private Eye.


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