Guy Noir
Saturday, December 13, 2008

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(THEME)

TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions — Guy Noir, Private Eye —

(PIANO)

GK: It was December and I was in New York, working for Mayor Bloomberg who was giving a Christmas party at City Hall and wanted me to go over the guest list. He was running for a third term as mayor, though there was a limit of two terms, but when they passed it, the voters of New York didn't know how much they would need him.

TR (BLOOMBERG): I want you to make sure there aren't any soreheads at the party who are going to give me a hard time about my impeding third term.

GK: Okay. But it's Christmas — who's going to give you a hard time at Christmas?

TR (BLOOMBERG): You don't know New Yorkers, do you—where are you from?

GK: Minnesota, sir.

TR (BLOOMBERG): Is that the one— that's out there — out by Indiana. Right?

GK: Close enough.

TR (BLOOMBERG): Or is it Kansas?

GK: No, but did you know there is a Manhattan, Kansas?

TR (BLOOMBERG): How can there be a Manhattan, Kansas? Manhattan is here.

GK: I don't know. Maybe it's where the Manhattan Indians went so you couldn't steal the glass beads you gave them when you stole the island.

TR (BLOOMBERG): I'm going to have somebody look into this. (BRIDGE)

GK: But then the Mayor decided to hold the Christmas party on Antigua in the Caribbean and he didn't include airfare in the invitation, so the soreheads were nicely eliminated. And I was out a job. Until I got a call from the opera diva Renata Flambe—

SS (ON PHONE): Mr. Noir, please hold for a call from Renata Flambee—

GK: Yes, of course.

SS (ON PHONE): She is extremely busy so please make your answers brief, and to the point, okay?

GK: Fine.

SS (ON PHONE): And this call may be recorded for quality purposes.

GK: Fine.

SS (ON PHONE): Or it may not.

GK: Whatever.

SS (ON PHONE): And any use of Miss Flambe's voice is strictly forbidden and any quotation from this conversation in a written or dramatic work, including but not limited to, radio, television, stage, screen, or personal memoir, is likewise forbidden.

GK: Good.

SS (ON PHONE): I will put Miss Flambe on the line now.

GK: Thank you. (HE WAITS, HUMMING TO HIMSELF FOR TEN SECONDS)

SS (ON PHONE): Miss Flambe will be with you in just a moment.

GK: Thank you. Don't rush on my account. Got all the time in the world.

SS (ON PHONE): Would you like to listen to music while you wait?

GK: Yes, Fine. Whatever.

(TWO BEATS)

RF (SINGS, AS IF A RECORDING):
Tonight you're mine completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I'm the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun? (CLICK)

RF (SPOKEN): Mr. Noir— it's Renata.

GK: Miss Flambe, a pleasure to hear your voice.

RF: Oh Mr. Noir— let me get right to the point. I am a broken woman. A woman looking over the edge of the precipice — into a chasm of darkness and despair. I am on the verge of collapse. Disaster is staring me in the face. My life is in shreds. I am betrayed on every hand. I am desperate. I come to you on my knees, sir. I need you. Please. I beg of you.

GK: What's going on, Miss Flambe?

RF: Oh Mr. Noir— I can't discuss this over the phone. Please. Come to the mansion. Now. (STING) (BRIDGE)

GK: So I went to Miss Flambe's home in what used to be the Frick Museum on Fifth Avenue. The Frick endowment had gotten Fricked in the stock market collapse and she moved in. The doorbell was dramatic (GONG) and the butler was too (TR GERMAN, PRUSSIAN QUESTIONS). There were jaguars roaming around (CATS) and flamingos (TROPICAL BIRDS) and monkeys and chimpanzees — (PRIMATES) and we walked across the vast entry hall (FOOTSTEPS ON MARBLE, ECHOEY) and a hunchback dwarf brought me a steamy cappuccino (FN (DWARF): I gave you extra foam. Enjoy) through the solarium to the music room where Miss Flambe was sitting cross-legged playing a sitar— (SITAR, TABLA) — Miss Flambe, Guy Noir. That's very pretty.

RF: Thank you. I do it to balance my chakras.

GK: Well, they seem a lot more balanced now than when we spoke on the phone.

RF: Oh that. Well, I'm all right now. My hairdresser Pierre quit. But he came back now. So I'm fine.

GK: You sounded desperate.

RF: I'm in opera, Mr. Noir. Despair, to us, is no more than what a chisel is to a carpenter. A tool. (SITAR STOPS) But now— help me up, Gottfried. (TR GERMAN) Danke.

GK: Well, you do it well, Miss Flambe. The reviews of your most recent performance at the Met were ecstatic to the point of hysteria. The critics threw themselves at your feet.

RF: Ah! It was nothing. A mere trifle, Mr. Noir. A little cherry bonbon of an opera. An amusement. (SHE WALKS SLOWLY ACROSS MARBLE FLOOR) A divertissement.

GK: "Pastiche" by Camembert? A mere trifle? I thought it was one of the masterpieces of the—

RF: Oh Mr. Noir— I am so bored by opera. The petty jealousies. The feuds. The envy that one encounters on every hand. I long to cross over into another medium. Let my spirit soar to new heights, free of the clichés of opera — O I think that if I see one more poisoned goblet, I shall die!

GK: Well, it's a free country, Miss Flambe. You can do what you want. I guess.

RF: Come, Mr. Noir. Follow me. (FOOTSTEPS OFF, BRIDGE)

GK: She led me into the solarium (VOICES OFF) where a stage had been set up and actors were waiting and a man at the piano and a director. (AIR KISSES)

RF: This is the cast of "Big Brass Bed" — and this is my director, Hector.

TR: So pleased to meet you. Love your work. Big fan. What'd you say your name is?

GK: Noir. So what is "Big Brass Bed"?

RF: It's a Broadway musical, Mr. Noir. And Hector here has allowed me to come in as an investor.

GK: Oh? How much did you invest?

RF: Six million dollars.

GK: Six million dollars! What is this?

RF: It's a musical. It's going to be great.

GK: "Big Brass Bed" — where does that come from —?

RF: Sing it, Fred.

(B'WAY PIANO INTRO)

FN (BELTER):
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed —I said—
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed.

RF: It's a musical about Bob Dylan. If he had stayed in Hibbing, Minnesota, and gone into the family appliance business.

FN (SINGS):
Close your eyes, close the door,
I'm coming home — from the store.
I'll be your Bobby tonight.

GK: Miss Flambe, could we talk? Just you and me?

RF: He wants to be free — to leave Hibbing and become an artist — but his wife Lois is holding him back.

AS (BELTER):
It ain't me, Bob
No, no, no, it ain't me, Bob,
It ain't me you're lookin' for, Bob. (PIANO BRIDGE)

FN: I gotta get out of here, Lois. Ride a freight train. Feel the wind in my face. Learn to play D chords on the guitar.

AS: Don't be ridiculous. I'll tell you what we've got to do — we've gotta get out of this crummy lease downtown and build us a new store out in the suburbs. A bigger one with a parking lot.

(SINGS):

They say ev'rything can be replaced,
And so we need a bigger store.
A better location with more space
With rows of stoves across the floor.
We cannot rent much longer
So call our landlord Miss Berniece
Any day now, any day now,
We shall get out of this lease.

RF: How do you like it so far?

GK: I think Bob Dylan fans are going to be a little surprised by some of this.

TR: Yeah— surprise is what we're looking for.

GK: I mean, he wasn't exactly a Broadway type of songwriter.

TR: Bingo. We're trying to cross boundaries here.

RF: It's a whole new direction. Wonderful special effects. Look at this. A freight train. Onstage.

TR: It's unbelievable. Cue the freight train! (FREIGHT TRAIN APPROACHING, WHISTLE, TRAIN CROSSING BELL, DOPPLER, ZOOMS PAST, CLICKING ON TRACKS). Pretty amazing, huh?

GK: For about ten seconds, yes. Miss Flambe, could we talk?

TR: Look at this. He leaves town in a thunderstorm. (THUNDER, LIGHTNING) Actual rain on stage.

GK: Right. I see that.

TR: And we have bagpipes. (BAGPIPES PLAYING "DON'T THINK TWICE")

GK: How do they come into the story?

TR: They're playing "Don't Think Twice It's All Right"—

GK: Okay, but why?

TR: I just like bagpipes. So there's a bagpipe band playing in the circus parade and Bob wants to join the circus and Lois won't let him.

AS (SINGS):
It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, Bob
You can't go rambling again
You got a business and a family, Bob
And the store stays open 'til ten.
When the checking account is overdrawn
And there's a loan we need to make a payment on
The alarm clock is going to go off at dawn
Don't think twice, get to work.

GK: I thought you said he left town in a thunderstorm.

TR: He did but then he came back. Forgot his wallet.

GK: Miss Flambe— do you have the rights to use these songs?

RF: Hector is taking care of all that—

TR: I'd like you to meet our playwright, Miss Joyce. Jessica Joyce.

SS: A pleasure, Mr. Noir. I've heard so much about you. I love your work.

GK: Oh? What work is that?

SS: Whatever work you do. I love it. I'm a fan. What can I say—

GK: Okay, never mind. Tell me. I'm curious — So the first act is Bob Dylan trying to get out of the appliance business.

SS: Right.

GK: So when does Miss Flambe come in?

TR: We're holding her for the second act.

RF: I play Bob's muse. A supernatural persona who descends from the ceiling of the appliance store as he is unpacking some ice-makers.

GK: I see.

RF (SINGS):
Hey! Mr. Ice Machine Man, write a song for me,
I'm a goddess and I'll help you break the ice.
Hey! Mr. Ice Machine Man, you could be a star
And the jingle of the royalties would be very nice.

GK: Miss Flambe, could we talk?

RF (SINGS):
Hey! Mr. Ice Machine Man, I could be your muse
I'll take you out to New York and the Village.
Hey! Mr. Ice Machine Man, you'll have Spanish leather boots,
And a long coat made from white chinchillas.

GK: If I could have a word with you in private—

TR: Wait for it… here comes the big dance number—

(PIANO INTRO, AND DANCING FEET)

FN (SINGS):
How much wood must a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck would chuck wood?
Yes, 'n' how much stuff must a salesman sell
Before you think he is good?

AS:
How much snow must an Eskimo
Shovel when the weather is raw?
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
Blowing down from Canada.

RF:
How many roles must a soprano sing
Before she's considered a star?
Why must a diva take the subway?
Why can't they send a town car?
And what does she do when she reaches the top
After a difficult climb?
The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind,
And in New York it blows all the time.

ALL:
This is the end of "The Big Brass Bed"
Except for a last curtain call,
And maybe we'll sing an encore or two
But finally the curtain must fall.
How how much longer will this song go on
Before we all take a bow?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,
And the wind is blowing right now.

GK: How did you people get her to put up six million dollars for this?

TR: It was the power of a great idea.

GK: Were you by any chance in the banking business before this?-

TR: I was, yes. With Lehman Brothers.

GK: I thought so. Look— Miss Flambe. You've been hoodwinked. The musical is a turkey. If you open in this, you'll be the laughingstock of New York. This is a disaster.

RF: People laughed at Bizet. They laughed at Stravinsky.

GK: Okay, but this is no Le Sacred du Printemps. This is more like Le Sacred du Stink Bomb. (STING, BRIDGE) How wrong I was. "Big Brass Bed" got rave reviews the next week and I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

SS: I came away stunned with amazement from seeing Renata Flambe in the revolutionary musical "Big Brass Bed" and thinking Tony, Tony, Tony—as in awards. This apotheosis of Bob Dylan songs is truly a transformational work that left me dizzy with admiration. So dizzy I can't write whole sentences, just words and short phrases. A dazzling triumph. Dot dot dot dot. Stupendous. Dot dot dot dot dot. Miss Flambe has never been better. (BRIDGE)

GK: I read the review in the lobby of the Town Hall where I was working security at a concert by a Balkan women's choir. Fifty bucks a night. Not bad for sitting around. (RF BALKAN SINGING) And Balkan women's music sort of grows on you. The fans of Balkan women's choral music don't need much security. They are pretty much self-policing.

TR (BALKAN THUG): Hey. Whatcha looking at?

GK: Sorry.

TR (BALKAN THUG): That's my girlfriend. Put your eyes back in your head.

(THEME)

TR (ANNC): A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions: Guy Noir, Private Eye.

(THEME 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).

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