ROCK-OLA!

EXTRACT only. For the complete stageplay,  please visit: www.australianplays.org

 

ROCK-OLA!

The Last Post-Hiroshima Romance

by

Tim Gooding

© Tim Gooding January 1977

 

Characters

JET de LUXE (the rebel) born 1945
VELVET (the little girl blue) born 1950
ANGEL SUGAR (the devil woman) born 1944
PAGLIACCI (the clown) born 1953
 
Staging
 
A black space. No finite edges except a downstage thrust. A multitude of pinpoint light sources, mounted in floor, walls and ceiling, capable of delineating abstract and naturalistic scenes. We are on the moon, leaning on a lamppost, cruising down a night highway, exchanging vows atop Blueberry Hill behind the Bright Lights of Big City. Oh yeah.
 
Precis
 
Jet de Luxe has been mortally injured in a plane crash in which three friends – Velvet, Angel, Pagliacci – were killed, in suicidal tribute to Buddy Holly and the rest of the premature rock ‘n’ roll dead. Rock-Ola! depicts Jet’s dying memory immediately following the crash.
 
A list of song sources is included at the end of the script.

 

ACT 1

Scene 1

(The Crash.

Blackness. A large loud explosion. It fades.

Upstage: a Rock-Ola jukebox begins to glow. A vintage bakelite mantle wireless hangs from its cord, spinning, as if it has fallen but not reached the ground.

Downstage: 9 gold rings lie scattered.

VELVET is twisted in her seat, collapsed against the jukebox. Clad in WW2 vintage flying gear: leather jacket, flying cap, blue scarf. Large headphones plugged into the Rock-Ola.

PAGLIACCI, in flying gear, white scarf, lies centrestage. Clown face makeup. He clutches a small transistor radio.

ANGEL SUGAR, pilot, slumps in another seat. White scarf. Painted nails and face, large diamond ring. Car-seat radio beside her.

One empty seat.

The seats are identical, mobile, resemble sports car bucket seats. Angel’s seat has simple flying controls attached.

JET de LUXE staggers from the darkness: another airman, white scarf, alto saxophone in one hand. He is dying..but might also be precariously dancing.

Behind, upstage, a pair of ground lights illuminate. Then another pair, slightly further apart. Then another pair. And another..until we are looking down a tarmac by night.

JET executes a cool James Dean wave, and talks to the moon.)

JET’S LAST NUMBER

JET:      (sings) “Mr Moonlight!”
Tailgunner to Mr Moonlight.
(sings) “Mr Moonlight, come again please..”  Tailgunner to Mr Moonlight.
(sings) “Here I am on my knees, begging if you  please...”
Jet de Luxe to Golden Oldie. Come again please. Are you there?
(sings) “I-I think you’re fine, ‘cause we love you, Mr Moonlight..”
I just want you to know that I think you’re fine. I still have every one of your records. I know all of your songs off by heart. I remember that before the war, your favourite colour was silvery, but now it’s blue..
(sings) “Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone.”
Dark night tonight. Dying moon. Near the final phase and tailgunner’s delight: bomber’s moon. Bomber’s moon is no moon at all. In my father’s day..when I was born..last day of my father’s day..
 
(He stumbles into a “Shadows” style dance step.)
 
JET:      Gonna be cold. Cold as ice on the moon. I’m a-coming, mama. Five seconds away. Can’t you hear me knocking? I can see the others, thousands of them, already there, sitting under yellow lamps beside the road. It’s windy. One silver airship still burning. Another. Tail poking through a rooftop. Wizard show. Another burnt-out kite in a back yard. I can see them all, nosed into every yard, slammed behind every street lamp. And the boys and girls out front, all of them, sitting with their scarves all blowing in one direction, down the street.
 
(Upstage: VELVET, a shadowy figure, rises and makes a jukebox selection: “Mr Moonlight” plays softly under the following sequence. VELVET leans on the jukebox while JET looks to the moon.)
 
JET:       The Final Number is called The White Scarf Tail Gunner’s Blues. Where it all began. And where it all ends. The night was clear, and the moon was yellow, and the leaves came tumbling down. High noon, low tide, claire de lune and let it ride. First chorus of the White Scarf Tail Gunner’s Blues.
 
(He leaps into action, movements bearing the imprint of famous rock ‘n’ rollers. He runs upstage, leaps onto the jukebox, gives Little Richard’s 2-handed V-Victory sign.)
 
JET:      Are you ready? Are you ready? For I am the only thing left! I am the sole survivor. Everybody get in the groove and don’t move, don’t be no fool, let’s go by the golden rule, and let’s go! I said, everybody get with it and let’s go! We gotta go! We gotta go!
 
(He jumps down, stomps an outstretched leg.
 
JET:      The very pulse of life itself.
 
(He pounds the jukebox, Jerry Lee Lewis piano style.)
 
JET:      You cannot catch old Jet de Luxe. You can’t catch me, ‘cause if you get too close, you know I’m gone like a cooool breeze. Jet de Luxe. By Healing Music out of Enola Gay
 
(He crouches, launches into a Chuck Berry duck-walk.)
 
JET:      Do you remember Enola Gay? Sweet little Enola Gay? And a summer night? A hot August night (sings) “You came to me, one summer’s night.." The beginning, bomber’s moon, and the islands of Nippon slippin’ and a-slidin’ beneath Enola’s wings (sings) “You came to  me, one summer’s night, And from your beam you made my dream, And now she is mine. Remember Enola and that summer night? Where it all began, the original thing. Sh-boom, sh-boom. Roll over Hiroshima and tell Nagasaki the news. Rock-Ola Enola, talk to me baby, all right mama, ok sugar, mm mmmm...    
             Walking along, singing a song, Born in the year they dropped the bomb.
             And Bertrand Russell sang the blues, Too pooped to pop, but he knew the tune..
 
(The tarmac lights extinguish. A single overhead light flickers on. And JET is under a street lamp.

VELVET, ANGEL, PAGLIACCI hum “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” as JET delivers a deep, heartfelt Elvis-like monologue.

JET:      Where it all ends. The final number. You know honey, someone once said, “Either be hot or be cold, for if you are lukewarm, the Lord will spew you out of his mouth”. And I looked deep into my heart and I asked myself, “Have my best days gone?” Truthfully, I have to answer yes. Like a patch-eye gull, only catch half your fish, like a three leg dog, still walk along the railroad track, like if you find your sweetheart in the arms of your best friend..oh honey, it’s like there are just too many reminders littering up your beach. “For you see there comes a time when all your dreams, all your dreams of a lifetime, must come to an end.” And you lie awake at night, and ask yourself “What happens next?” When you’ve struck your solid gold, when you’ve hit your highest note, when you’ve peaked, what happens next? What about the fifty years before you die?
 
(The humming cuts.)
 
JET:      Too many reminders on the beach, honey. Look out the window at the littered sand. Singing one song. Now sing it again. Pagliacci was a clown but he cried in his tent.
 
(PAGLIACCI rises.)
 
PAGLIACCI:     Trannies and Nationals
                           Radiolas and mantles
                           Marconi Electra
                           Skyraider Quicksilver
 
JET:      Singing one song. Now sing it again. Angel Sugar had the devil in her heart. She was an angel sent to me.
 
(ANGEL rises.)
 
ANGEL:    Andres and Bloodhouse
                   Jet Bar Tabou
                   Cheetah and SkyLounge
                   Chequers El Rocco
 
JET:      Singing one song. Now sing it again. Velvet was blue.
 
(VELVET rises.)
 
VELVET:        Decca and Parlophone
Coral and Zonophone
Tamla and Polydor
Fontana Pye-Nixa
 
JET:      EP, LP, 45 and 33. Singing one song. Now sing it again. Honey there is only one thing left for you to do. You gotta take that love that can’t be shared, those guns that you fired all at once, that song that just can’t linger on, and you just gotta walk right out and fetch Pagliacci from his tent, and Angel Sugar from the bar, and Velvet from her lonely room..
 
(VELVET, ANGEL, PAGLIACCI form a ghostly backing group behind JET. A spooky gathering of finger-popping, hand-jiving, doo-wopping shadows.)
 
JET:      ..and the Leader from his Pack and Sweet Little Sixteen, back in school again, and the baby from the bright lights big city which went to her head, all of the singers and swingers, the speeders and solid senders, the moonlight gamblers and midnight ramblers, the puppy lovers and clowns, the pickers and gunners, and you go across the railroad and fetch the ones born on the wrong side of the tracks, and down in the boondocks, until you have them all, all the sons and daughters of Enola Gay, who once danced to the Healing Music, and you pack up all the reminders, turn around, walk slowly into the hangar, and climb into your black bomber plane. And as you turn the music way up high, you look over your shoulder and say:
               
                “If you ever think about me
                 If I ever cross your mind
                You know, you know I’m yours
                 I, I know, I know you’re mine”
 
And you fly down the runway and rip it up. And realising what you’ve done, you say “Baby forgive me, I’m sorry”. And with her last dying breath the music looks up at you and says:
 
ALL:      (sing) “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo..”

JET:      And you know it’s gonna be all right.

ALL:      (sing) “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo..”

JET:      Drifting across the darkened paddock on the edge of town, in the kerosene glow of Pagliacci’s tent, alone and empty because the circus has moved on:

ALL:      (sing) “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo..”

PAGLIACCI:     (sings) “Tra la la la la la li lo..”

JET:      And in Sugar’s last whisky bar where the waiters have wiped the spills and ash and all gone home, to the slow rhythm of the fan which turns all through the night:

ANGEL:    (sings) “Sha la la la la la la..”

JET:      And in Velvet’s lonely room:

VELVET:   (sings) “Ooobie doobie doobie doo..”

JET:      You know it’s gonna be all right! You’ve left the final reminder, honey, and that can never die. Down the hallway, down the road, everywhere, dimly, the music sings. A stranger like a shadow, with a transistor in his hand and a shiver down his spine. He holds it to his ear and he can hear the city roar. Out of Enola Gay came The Bomb, and out of The Bomb came the Stranger like a Shadow, and out of the Stranger like a Shadow came the Healing Music, and oh how we danced. The Healing Music! Makes the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame and the dumb to walk and talk!

(JET shudders. A pulse runs through his body.)

JET:      Bbrrrr! The Stranger, he walks on my grave!
             Well I looked at my watch and you know what it said?
             When I finish this number Jet de Luxe will be dead!
             Ssshh. Little bit quieter now, little bit softer now..
 
PAGLIACCI:     Right now, my mother is reading the words of farewell scrawled in grease paint across the makeup mirror. All I wrote was:                 
                           “Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue
                           It isn’t very hard to do..”
But she doesn’t understand and her tears fall softly into my pot of rouge.
 
ANGEL:           And now the barman who was always a shoulder to cry on and company to laugh in is reading the message on the Gilbey’s coaster:
                         “Ciao baby, let’s call it a day..”
But he still thinks he’ll serve me after closing..
 
VELVET:        And mum unpins the note on my pillow while dad puts his arm round my little sister and the girls cry softly as dad holds them close and the scent of lavender from the old-fashioned notepaper drifts between them and reminds them of Velvet and the words she wrote: 
                      “When the song becomes a sigh
                        Forevermore becomes goodbye
                        But you’ll remain in my heart..”
 
JET:          Well I looked at my watch, and it was after the ball
                  But if you never have risen you never can fall.
I didn’t leave a note of farewell but I have kept one ring on my finger, a ring of solid gold with my favourite inscription: “Just Because”. And maybe they will inscribe it on my gravestone and place the ring under a little glass dome, in flowers, then shrug their shoulders   and say: “It goes to show you never can tell.” Once I said you can’t catch me, but something did, and it would not let go. The Stranger like a shadow, he walks over my grave. Transistor to his ear, he can hear the city roar.

(Tarmac lights reappear.

SFX: Aircraft engines, rising in volume.

A pulse runs up the tarmac as if something, or many somethings, are taking off and flying overhead.

The pulse accelerates.)

JET:      Hey-ey-ey!

(A call and response which rises to crescendo.)

OTHERS:   Hey-ey-ey!

JET:      Oh-oh-oh!

OTHERS:   Oh-oh-oh!

JET:      Hey!

OTHERS:   Hey!

JET:      Oh!

OTHERS:   Oh!

JET:      Hey!

OTHERS:   Oh!

JET:      Hey!

OTHERS:   Oh!

JET:      Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!

(JET races down the tarmac, drops to his knees and slides, sax to mouth.

SFX: Aircraft scream

As he plays a wild sax solo.

Blackout. Silence.)

 

Scene 2

Sometime in the not-so-distant past..

VELVET, melancholy baby, leans on the jukebox.

ANGEL sits, touching up makeup, car-seat radio by her.

PAGLIACCI lies downstage, transistor radio to his ear, surfie kitbag nearby.

JET sits under the mantle radio. Wearing the ten golden rings.

ANGEL:    Sometimes I wish I was Bobby’s Girl. Dig this. I’m parked in a gin house run by a fat bald daddy-O with a scone like a blistered beach ball who calls himself Papa. Papa Oo Mau Mau. Jesus. He’s one hip fat man. He’s Mr Obese Man. Meanwhile some no-talent bum on the jukebox is yodelling “Why Why Why Delilah?” and I’m muttering “Run Samson Run”. (sings) “I’d sooner trust a hungry lion than a gal with a cheatin’ heart..” Too right. And this Bandstand refugee is backed by the usual quartet of creeps in the usual Prince Valiant haircuts and the usual pastel bodyshirts clashing with the usual primary coloured acne as they sing in the usual K Blunt Minor key. And right about the usual time, the drunkest and creepiest Valiant slithers over and asks can he buy me the usual drink, to which I respond with the usual “Drop off, Junior”, or words to that usual effect, so he slopes off back to the usual mates with the usual summing up of his predicament: “She’s up herself. I reckon she must be frigid or something”. Then along comes Velvet. Like a Mouseketeer among Hell’s Angels. Like, hi, Toots, pull up a pew.

VELVET:   Hi. I’m Velvet.

ANGEL:    (as Mouseketeer) Hi! I’m Angel Sugar! Can you do the mashed potato?

VELVET:   No.

ANGEL:    No?

VELVET:   No.

ANGEL:    No. Right, little sister, hi fi your history. Like, what’s a nice girl like yousville?

VELVET:   Are you a widgie?

ANGEL:    Got it. On occasion. I am sporting my widgie face tonight. Dragged it screaming out of the medicine cabinet. Dig the beehive, honey.

VELVET:   Yeah. Neat.

ANGEL:    Neat? Flip, baby. Flip. Vintage? Model and year.

VELVET:   1950. Twenty seven big ones.

ANGEL:    A nymphette yet. I remember twenty seven. Sailor Sam? You got a man?

VELVET:   No. Got the blues.

ANGEL:    You sure you can’t do the mashed potato?

VELVET:   Yeah.

ANGEL:    Yeah?

VELVET:   Yeah.

ANGEL:    Yeah? Honeychile, you in big trouble. Drink this.

VELVET:   (drinks) Oh, yeah! Oooweeee!

ANGEL:    Ooo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang. (drinks) Da doo ron ron, Da doo ron ron. Let me tell you about –

VELVET:   Ooo poo pah doo?

ANGEL:    Doo bah bah barp.

VELVET:   (sings) “Oh doo bop she dum dum.” Watusi?

ANGEL:    Like little Lucy. (sings) “Na, na na na na, na na na na,  na na na na na na.” Watch me now!

VELVET:   (sings) “Oobie doobie doobie doo.”

ANGEL:    (sings) “Oobie doobie doobie doo.”

VELVET:   Oobie doobie doobie, doobie doo doo.

ANGEL:    Doobie doo doo.

VELVET:   Doo doo.

ANGEL:    Doobie doo.

VELVET:   Doobie doo.

ANGEL:    Flam! The lang-a-widge of love. Wham-bam thankyou ma’am, skin me daddy-O, fab fab fab, do you go all the way?, I’m in with the In Crowd, zip-ah-dee-doo-dah, zip-ah-dee-ay, see the girl with the red dress on, a Purple Heart and she’s gone gone gone, and will you still love me tomorrow?

VELVET:   Peachy-keen and neat-O, Jet, so far out I think you’re groovy, bamalamaloo wanna catch a movie?, hop in my car I think you’re fine, bye bye baby, you’re out of time, dance dance dance and fun fun fun, I just wanna make love on the run.

ANGEL:    The Saturday night swindle. Oo oobley oo.

VELVET:   I don’t suppose you can fly a plane?