Radio script
Saturday, September 29, 2007
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(PIANO TENDEROSO)

Garrison Keillor: I started listening to radio when I was a little boy and I had no friends and for three years I was kept in a small dark room in the basement. Lying on a mattress next to a Zenith radio. My parents loved me dearly and they worried about other children picking on me and beating me up and so they kept me safe in my room, which had no windows so that I couldn't be envious of other children who were playing in the park across the street.

Tim Russell: We love you, son. We want you to be happy. (SOB) As happy as possible under the circumstances.....

Sue Scott: I'll bring you macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches — so you can grow up just like other boys. (SOB) Almost like other boys......

GK: There were no mirrors, no glass, no shiny surfaces, so I wasn't aware of my "problem," as they referred to it —

TR: Everybody has their problems and you have a sort of special "problem," son, and we don't want you to worry about it. Okay?

SS: You're a good boy and we love you, despite your "problem" and everything is going to be okay. Really. It will. (SHE BURSTS INTO TEARS)

GK: So I was curious what my problem was. And then one day my older sister told me.

SS (TEEN): You look weird, you know that? Your head is transparent. I can see right through your skull and into your brain and it's gross. Big gray lumps and blood and Ewwwww. Disgusting. You know something? You are never going to be normal. People will take one look at you and — Yechhhhh. (STING)

GK: Cranial transparency is a condition that affects a small number of children and it comes from not eating enough green leafy vegetables. My mother didn't like green leafy things because she thought there were germs on them. She had no idea. People didn't know a lot of things back then in the Forties and Fifties. So, I lived in a dark room and my only friends were people on the radio.

(GALLOPING HOOVES, MUSIC UNDER)

TR (ANNC): Galloping out of the setting sun on his horse Ramon....his faithful Norwegian companion Thorvald at his side.....it's RANGER DAVE—

MS: Let's ride, Ramon!!!! Forward! Upward!

TR (ANNC): ....brought to you by Baptist Bran Flakes, the cereal that fills you up and cleans you out. (MUSIC SHIFTS TO DRAMATICO UNDER) — As we join Ranger Dave and Thorvald, they are in the schoolhouse in Yellow Springs with the schoolmarm, ambushed by the Johnson Gang — (GUNSHOTS)

Martin Sheen: Dang it. These pesky Johnsons — they've got us surrounded, Thorvald. And it'll be dark soon.

TR: (NORWEGIAN)

MS: But why are they ambushing me? (FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN) HEY! BACK OFF! I'VE GOT MY PROBLEMS TOO!!! LIVE AND LET LIVE!!! OKAY??? (RAIN OF GUNFIRE, RICOCHETS. DOOR SLAM) Dang it. Won't listen.

SS: It's me they're angry at. None of them did well in school. I made them take standardized tests, and now (GUNFIRE) it's not my fault —

MS: Huh. (FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN) THERE IS SUCH A THING AS REMEDIAL EDUCATION, YOU KNOW! (GUNFIRE) (DOOR SLAM)

SS: Now you know what teaching is like. You try to help people and they get frustrated and come after you.

TR: (NORWEGIAN)

SS: (PAUSE) What did he say?

MS: (PAUSE) I have no idea. I don't understand Norwegian.

TR: (NORWEGIAN)

SS: (PAUSE) He sounds sort of sad.

MS: I suppose he must be.

SS: (PAUSE) Why?

MS: He's been my faithful companion for twenty years and I haven't understood a thing he said.

TR: (NORWEGIAN)

SS: (PAUSE) So why do you stay together?

MS: (PAUSE) It's hard to break up with somebody who doesn't understand English. I tell him to go away and he just stares at me.

TR: (NORWEGIAN)

MS: So tell me — is there a back way out of here?

SS: Yes. There's an underground tunnel.

MS: Why didn't you tell me before?

SS: You didn't ask.

MS: Where does it go?

SS: To the saloon.

MS: The saloon!!! Why the saloon???

SS: Because a lot of people don't like to be seen coming in to the schoolhouse for remedial reading so they come in by way of the saloon.

MS: Okay. Let's get out of here. Come on, Thorvald. (TR NORWEGIAN)

SS: (OFF) It's right this way.......

(BRIDGE)

GK: I listened to Ranger Dave faithfully and ate Baptist Bran Flakes and I know it sounds strange but when you're so alone as I was and in the dark, you hang onto voices and they seem so close sometimes.

MS: Hey little buckaroo. How come you're lying here all alone? You not feeling well?

GK: It's my head, Ranger Dave. I suffer from a rare condition called cranial transparency. Also known as scalpular depigmentation.

MS: Ah, I see. And I suppose other kids make fun of you then, huh?

GK: The human heart can be vicious, Ranger Dave. That's quite a thing to discover when you're eight years old but it's the truth.

MS: The human heart can also be loving and kind, little buckaroo. And it's a beautiful world out there. So when you go off and hide in the dark, away from the sun and the grass and trees and birds, it's like going without water.

GK: I get my water from the radio, Ranger Dave.

MS: That's not good enough, pal. What you need is broccoli.

GK: Broccoli?

MS: It's the cure for what you got, little buddy. My faithful Norwegian companion taught me that......

GK: But where am I going to find broccoli?

MS: I'll go get you some. Wait here. (HE GIDDYUPS TO HORSE, GALLOPS AWAY) (BRIDGE)

GK: I lay in the dark, waiting for Dave to return..... and listened to the radio.......

(BLIZZARD)

TR: BILLY PETERSON, E.M.T. —

MS: Come on, White Star. (BARKS) A 9-1-1 call from the Stromberg farm. Let's get in the rig and ride.

(SIREN)

TR: In snow or sleet, in rain or hail, the emergency medical technicians of Company A are ready to ride to the rescue.

MS: This is the fourth time the Strombergs have called this week. And always the same problem. Mild depression. (WOOF) But I've gotta go. Sing em a song, tell em a few jokes. (WOOF) Hear the one about the dog who walks into the bar? He says to the bartender, "Hey. Look at me. A talking dog. How about a drink for a talking dog?" The bartender says, "Sure. The toilet is right down the hall." (DOG CHUCKLES) (BRIDGE)

GK: When you are in isolation the way I was, a lot of radio shows seem very classy that maybe you wouldn't like that much if you got out more and had a life.

(SWANK JAZZ THEME)

TR (ANNC): And now from New York,from the Club Mocambo just off Times Square, its Richard Asher and his orchestra and the song stylings of the sin-sational Ramon Ramondo.....

MS: Hey. Great to be with you again. And I want to send this out to the chick in the Sunset neighborhood— this is for you, baby. (SINGS):

There were dolls in the joint
And they never knew what class is
No they never knew it at all
Till there was me.

There were blondes and brunettes
From Pittsburgh and Hoboken
And they never knew what love is
Til the saw me

They saw me standing in my suit and dark glasses
and loafers
And smoking a lucky and drinking gin

There were girls, lots of girls
And the room got very quiet
And they all opened their mouths
When they saw me

(MUSIC FADE UNDER)

GK: I lay there in the dark and I could smell smoke and something like varnish and then.....

MS: Hey, what you doing here? Kids aren't supposed to be in here.

GK: What's in that glass, mister?

MS: None of your business, ya little snoop. Beat it. Scram. Hey— wait a minute.

GK: What?

MS: Wow. Your head. Weird. How long you had that?

GK: Too long.

MS: Anybody ever offer to show you in a carnival? Huh? My btother runs a traveling carnival. We could put you on display. Bubblehead Boy. Charge 50 cents. Sell autographed pictures. What do you say, kid? Split it sixty-forty. Travel around in a nice trailer— all the hot dogs you can eat—

GK: I don't want hot dogs. I want broccoli. (STING, BRIDGE) Dave was gone a long time. My mom and dad came to visit me every day of course and did their best to cheer me up.....

TR: Want to play Parcheesi, son?

SS: Sure. We could play Parcheesi and eat popcorn and listen to the radio, just like — just like normal families. (SOB)

TR: I bought you this today, son.

GK: What is it?

TR: Try it on.

GK: What is it?

TR: It's a rubber mask. It goes over your head.

SS: Try it on, honey. Please.

GK: Okay. (RUBBER STRETCHING AND SLIPPING ON OVER HEAD WITH A SNAP) Ouch.

SS: Look at me.

TR: It's nice.

SS: Yes. It's nice.

GK (MUFFLED): What is it?

TR: It looks good on you.

SS: It's an elephant mask.

GK (MUFFLED): I don't want to be an elephant.

TR: Once you get used to it, it's not bad.

GK (MUFFLED): Couldn't you at least have found a cougar mask?

SS: They were all out of cougars. All they had were elephants. (STING)

GK: I sat there, waiting for Ranger Dave, and listening to one radio show after another, day and night.....

(BIG YOWSA YOWSA THEME)

TR (ANNC): From NEW YORK!!!! Live from the Tom-Tom Room at the fashionable Hotel Oglallah on West 43rd Street, it''s THE JIGGS WAHPETON SHOW, starring "the gal in the know," New York Journal-American gossip columnist Jiggs Wahpeton. And now....heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Jiggs—

SS: Thank you so much, Jack Carleton. And I can't tell you what a thrill it is for me personally to have as my guest today, none other than the brilliant, the stylish, the continually amazing actor, one of my all-time favorites, and I really mean that — Mr. Lawrence Firmer. So good of you to come—

MS: Hey. It's always a pleasure to see you, Jiggs —

SS: You know, I am a major major fan of everything you've ever done, I loved you in "For Whom The Sun Rises," with that actress, I forget her name now—

MS: Sophia Loren—

SS: Sophia Loren, right — and now, having made umpteen major box office smash hits, you are doing something that is, I think, just incredibly incredibly brave. You are bringing Moby Dick to the Broadway stage. That is so exciting—

MS: Well, I've always wanted to do Moby Dick, I can't really explain why, it just speaks to me and it always has — I read it when I was eight years old and I looked at Captain Ahab and I said, "That's my dad."

SS: When you were eight—

MS: I said, "That's my dad."

SS: Okay — but why now? In Hollywood you're box-office magic. Why Broadway? Why Moby Dick? Why now?

MS: Well, I just feel that it's got so much to say to people today. I mean, Melville wrote it a long time ago — and yet, when you look at Moby Dick, it's really all about us. You know what I mean? It's got a hero. A warrior, if you will. And he's on a quest. And he has to reach down deep within himself if he's going to succeed.

SS: Right. But he dies in the end. Captain Ahab, that is. Right?

MS: Not in our version. In our version, he fights the whale and he loses his other leg and he's getting ready to go in search of him again. I wanted to sort of open up the story, you know? And create more of a narrative arc—

SS: Okay, and what about the whale—

MS: The whale is more of an inner whale—

SS: You're doing Moby Dick without the whale? I heard they were building a whale and they'd spent three-quarters of a million dollars on it. Wrong?

MS: It just didn't work so we're going to do it with lighting now and it's not a whale so much as it is the enormous irrational anger that lies within each one of us.

SS: Great. We'll be right back with my guest Lawrence Firmer right after this message. (YOWSA YOWSA THEME)

GK: I loved radio, I loved all the shows, even the livestock report —

MS: (DRAMATICALLY) Slaughter goats, 120-130 lbs, 50-75; slaughter nannies, 90-95, 35-36.75; slaughter kids, 60-65, 59-60-

GK: Slaughter kids—

MS: (DRAMATICALLY); Slaughter lambs, 50-58, 83-88.50. (TENDER STING)

GK: I felt like a slaughter lamb myself. Doctors were trying to figure out what to do about my cranial transparency. (VENTILATOR, OPERATING ROOM)

TR (DOCTOR): We're going to inject your head with this pink dye, Carson, and we think maybe it'll make you look sort of normal. At least reddish-pink. Hold still.

GK: That needle looks awfully huge.

SS: It's all right, honey. It'll be just fine.

GK: When parents get that reassuring sound in their voices, that's when I get really nervous.

SS: Just hold still. (POP, SLUICING OF INJECTION)

GK: It feels like you're shooting that right into the middle of my brain.

TR: We are, yes, it's to stimulate the production of pigmentation.

GK: That didn't work and then they tried spraying me with food coloring (SPRAYING) and then they put Qtips up my nose that were soaked in something (TWO POPS) and then this weird scientist came to see me—

TR (FRANKENSTEIN): Remarkable. Extraordinary. Incredible. I can see everything in your head. Everything. Hmmmmm. Starting to get interested in girls, I see. (STING)

GK: Lying there in the dark, it was hard for me to separate reality from imagination.....

MS: I got the same problem, kid.

GK: Mr. Firmer?

MS: Call me Larry, Carson.

GK: I'm not sure I can. I mean you're Mr. Lawrence Firmer, the star of screen and now of stage.

MS: I don't know about stage, Carson. This Moby Dick business — I donno how I got into this— weird — you go to lunch and the next thing you know — you've signed a contract to do a musical version of Moby Dick —

GK: A musical?

MS: (SINGS, BROADWAY STYLE)

There's something out there
Rather pale,
In fact it's white
And it's a whale.

They say I'm obsessed
They say I'm sick
But I can't rest
Til I find Moby Dick.

Maybe I'm crazy
Maybe I'm out to sea
But Captain Ahab don't like rehab
No, not me.

GK: I don't know much about musicals, sir, but I don't think you should do it.

MS: You think not?

GK: I only know you from radio, Mr. Firmer, and on radio, you're just a real normal guy and not stuck up at all. Certainly no crazed sea captain.

MS: I think you're right, kid.

GK: You just sound real regular.

MS: You too. Even though your head is transparent.

GK: That's why I'm hiding in this basement.

MS: I figured. Listen — what do you say we head for the coast? You and me.

GK: Which coast?

MS: Whichever one we get to first.

GK: But how?

MS: The train tracks are right out there— through the woods--

GK: I know, but—

MS: There oughta be a freight coming through in not too long.

GK: You mean— run away?

MS: Look. Those New York critics are looking forward to "Moby Dick" like wolves watching a wounded caribou. They're already writing their reviews. I've gotta disappear for awhile. It's either catch a freight or go in for treatment. And you— with your head— you need to get out of here—so? let's go. It's a big country. (STING, THEN FOOTSTEPS ON GRAVEL)

GK: I'm not sure about this— (DISTANT WHISTLE)

MS: You left a note for your parents — it's okay—

GK: But where are we going?

MS: Out there. It's a big country, Carson. We could go to Minnesota.

GK: Minnesota???? But why?

MS: Let's go. Run. (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS, WHISTLE) Follow me, kid. See that boxcar with the open door?? (THEY ARE BREATHING HARD) I'll swing myself up and then I'll reach down and help you up. Okay? Okay, here we go— (MS BIG EFFORT AND LEAP, STING, BRIDGE AND FADE UNDER)

GK: We got to Minnesota and I found fields of broccoli and that cleared up the problem. Mr. Firmer got work in documentary films —(TURKEY HERD)

MS: Here on the frozen tundra, a herd of turkeys pecks for food in the crusted snow. A major cash crop, turkeys, but what to do with their droppings. Now, new research has led to the discovery of a chemical process that turns bird manure into fuel — and also into jewelry and accent pillows for the living room.

GK: And I went into radio. Radio was my father, my mother. It was all I knew how to do. And ever so often someone will tell me —

SS: There seems to be something wrong with your head.

GK: And I know it's time to eat more broccoli.

(MUSIC OUT)

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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