Thursday, September 4, 2014


“The Buzz”

An original feature film screenplay by Paul Iorio.


Opening credits roll to the music of The Kinks's song "Top of the Pops," which begins with a flashy drum roll and the spoken words, "Yes, it's number one, it's top of the pops!" (it's a song about the glory of going to the top of the record charts).

Credits end and action begins at:

INT. THE RITZ NIGHTCLUB, GREENWICH VILLAGE -- NIGHT

From the balcony level, we see a punk band roaring through a chaotic set, with the singer wearing only underwear, the bassist spitting beer in the air, the bass drum bearing the name of the band, The Amazing Graces. The crowd moshes wildly in the front rows.

Two twentysomething pals, TONY ARMONICA and ALEX DARROW, watch the show from the balcony. Tony, a music journalist, is dressed a bit conservatively by rock standards, in a white shirt, beige khakis and with short hair, sort of David Byrne-style. Alex, the black director of music sales charts for Big Hitz magazine, is wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a t-shirt with a green comic book Spiderman on it.
The band ends its set with blaring feedback, and Alex and Tony file out with the rest of the crowd.

TONY
Some gig, huh?

ALEX
Scorcher.



PAGE TWO


EXT. THE RITZ -- NIGHT

Alex and Tony walk from the Ritz in the Village amidst throngs of fans in torn jeans and t-shirts reading Husker Du, Soul Asylum, the Ramones and SST. The club's marquee -- "Tonight: The Amazing Graces -- Sold Out" -- recedes in the background as Alex and Tony are seen (but not heard) chatting on the way to Tony's car.

The two get in Tony's Fiat and we see the post-concert street scene through
the windshield from their POV.

TITLE CARD: Memorial Day, 1987

Tony drives off with Alex.

INT. CAR -- NIGHT

TONY
This time last year the bandmembers were office temps.
Now they pack the Ritz.

ALEX
Actually, a couple of 'em are still temping, I hear.

TONY
They'd be top ten, if the charts were honest.

ALEX
So would R.E.M.



PAGE THREE


TONY
Speaking of which, wanna hear an advance tape of R.E.M.'s
new one? It's called "Document."

ALEX
Sure.


The traffic is stalled ahead in his lane, and Tony gets impatient, pulling into the lane for oncoming traffic before rejoining his lane.


TONY
Fifth gear sure comes in handy.

ALEX
Man, you coulda got us killed.

TONY
It worked, didn't it?

ALEX
Dunno about you. You're either really brave
or really suicidal.



Tony slips in a cassette, and we hear REM's "It's The End of the World As We Know It" at medium volume as they small talk.


TONY
So how's the new job? Hear you're running
the charts at Big Hitz, my alma mater.


PAGE FOUR


ALEX
Sucks.

TONY
Hear the magazine's still got a great dental plan: on
your first day, they hand you a toothbrush.

ALEX
Oh, yeah.

TONY

One minute you're Alex the lowly researcher
and the next you're in charge of the Hot 100.
Did I miss something?

ALEX
Did I miss something? My boss, that Joe Montana guy,
comes in last week real nervous and suddenly quits.

TONY
Like that?

ALEX
Like that.

TONY
No explanation?


PAGE FIVE

ALEX
No nothing. Gave up twelve years of seniority!

TONY
Why do you think he did it?

ALEX
Dunno. Maybe the pressure, the promoters.
They're always like, "Gimme a top ten."

TONY
A what?

ALEX
A top ten number on the charts for their record.
It's like, "Hey, Montana usedta give me a number
for an advertisement or a few bucks."

TONY
[shocked] Really? That's sure not how they
do it at Billboard or R&R.

ALEX
Well, this ain’t Billboard. And I'm getting
tired of sending back the fifty dollar bills in his cassettes.

TONY
You mentioned it to the big boss -- Sterling?


PAGE SIX

ALEX
It's always, "Uh, no time."

They stop at a red light and notice the high beams of the car behind them.

TONY
High beams. What a jerk. I wish cars had
high beams in the back so I could retaliate.

A bus passes with a huge display ad reading: "U2 at the Garden, July 15."
Tony tries to jot the date but his pen breaks.

TONY
You gotta pen?

ALEX
Here. [Alex hands him a novelty promotional pen
with a tuning fork at the end.] Keep it.

TONY
You sure that's a pen?

ALEX
Yeah. A Buzzpen.

TONY
Buzzpen?



PAGE SEVEN



ALEX
The Buzz sends 'em out. It's a pen and a tuning
fork and it buzzes.



Alex demonstrates, taking the pen from Tony and hitting the dashboard with
it, causing a buzz. He hands the pen back to Tony, who writes down the date
of the U2 show.


TONY
So who's The Buzz?

ALEX
Local promoter. CHR radio, singles mostly. Real
name is Frank Buzzardo or something. Promotes
losers who can't chart.


The high beams of the car behind them fills the car with light.


TONY
High beams again. Prick.


Their Fiat arrives at Alex's apartment house in the west Village (on Ninth Street
off Sixth Ave.) and Tony parks the car.


ALEX
Here we are at my rent stabilized abode.

TONY
Is Susan staying at your place tonight?



PAGE EIGHT


ALEX
No, she's at hers. Hey, you gotta come
upstairs; I just bought the campiest album
of all-time: "The Tom Jones Fever Zone" LP
from 1969.


TONY
"The Tom Jones Fever Zone"! [laughs] Where'd you get that?


ALEX
Rocks in Your Head.


Alex looks out the window and gazes briefly at a nearby car that has autumnal leaf and flower droppings on its roof and hood (unlike all the other nearby cars).


TONY
I'll come up for a few. But only if I can
watch the Carson monologue.

ALEX
You got it.


Tony turns off the ignition but the R.E.M. tape continues, now playing the
ominous "King of Birds."


ALEX
Y'know, we oughta connect for Bowie at the
Meadowlands next week. I've been looking
forward to it since --



PAGE NINE


Alex is interrupted by someone with a ski mask at his window who raises a
revolver; Alex quickly opens and rams his door into the gunman and runs for his life
down 9th St. The gunman, briefly knocked aside by the car door, his gun dropped to the ground, recovers his revolver and chases Alex at top speed. The gunman has a slight limp that doesn't slow him a bit. Tony runs after the gunman, who is far ahead of him.


ALEX (running)
Shit! I'm dying already!

TONY (running after gunman)
Run, Alex! Don't look back! Run!


The gunman shoots once at Alex and misses, then shoots from a half-block's distance, blowing off part of Alex's left shoulder. Alex falls to the ground shouting in pain. The gunman runs toward Alex, bends over him and puts two bullets in his head at very close range before running off into the deserted night.

Tony watches in horror, runs over to Alex's body and falls to his knees. (In the background we see Tony's car, the doors open, the car's tape player playing the droning ending of "King of Birds," with the lyrics, "Everybody hit the ground, everybody hit the ground.") Tony shrieks "Alex!" once, and the screen goes black.


CUT TO:

INT. POLICE STATION -- NIGHT

An overhead fan spins as Tony, sweaty and raw from the heat and the night's trauma, sits at a rectangular table in a dimly lit police interrogation room. Flies are buzzing and the air conditioning is out. The wall clock reads 11:50.

A rotund DETECTIVE DALEY walks in, munching on peanuts and accidentally bumping into a couple chairs. His assistant, a deferential rookie named QUAIL, walks behind him.



PAGE TEN


DETECTIVE DALEY
[Pulls up a chair noisily, looks down at the police report
and says to Quail:] Looks like we have a 125,
maybe a 125.27, and definitely a 240, a definite 120,
a possible 460, but we have to know more.
And we need to investigate the possibility
of a 105. Got that?

OFFICER QUAIL
Yessir. How 'bout a 160?

DETECTIVE DALEY
No 160; no robbery involved.
[He turns to Tony.] So what can you tell me?
Did ya get a look at the guy who did it?

TONY
He was in a ski mask. Maybe six feet, 200 pounds,
running with a sort of limp. But that's about it.
[Tony swats at a buzzing fly with his hand.]

DET. DALEY
[Glances at a TV monitor with sound down on the wall.]
Hold on: looks like something's on the news about
the case. [He gestures to Quail to turn up the TV, and Quail
quickly does so.]


A local news station is on the air with the words "Breaking News" on the
screen. An anchor appears.



PAGE ELEVEN


NEWS ANCHOR (on TV)
This just in to the newsroom. At this hour, police are
investigating the murder of a 23-year-old music industry
employee in Manhattan. The victim -- whose name
is being withheld pending notification of his family -- was
reportedly chased down West Ninth St. and shot at close range
by a person wearing a ski mask and gloves. We'll have more
details on this as they become available. But now... our lifestyle
correspondent in Coney Island has an update on Clara, the
panda bear who shocked her owner last week by supposedly
speaking several complete sentences in French.


DET. DALEY
A talking panda bear. Now I seen it all.
[He stuffs peanuts in his mouth and motions
to Quail to cut the sound, which he does. He turns
to Tony again.] So is there anything else you can tell
us about what happened? Did he have any enemies
that you know of?


TONY
None I know of. Though he did mention he was being pressured
to acccept bribes at work. He ran the music charts for
a trade magazine.


Daley jots notes, glances at his watch and seems not entirely interested in the
case.


DET. DALEY
So there was pressure on the job but no real enemies
that you know of. Okay, I think we have enough for now.
We really have to break off here.



PAGE TWELVE


TONY
Can I use the phone to call his girlfriend?


DET. DALEY
Sure. On the desk there. You can have the room
to yourself.


[Daley and Quail leave the room and shut the door. Tony picks up the phone,
dials Alex's girlfriend SUSAN ADLER and hears "hello."]


TONY (talking on the phone)
Susan, hi.


INTERCUT TO:


INT. SUSAN ADLER'S APT. ON WASHINGTON SQUARE -- NIGHT

Susan, with long black hair and jeans ,looking a bit like Sarah Silverman, sits near a window overlooking the arch in Washington Square Park in the Village.


SUSAN (on the phone)
[playfully] Hey, Tony. So why aren't you busy
reviewing the Amazing Graces? Playin’ hooky?
[We hear Tony from her phone: "Sit down, Susan.
There's some bad news."]


SUSAN (on phone)
You sound terrible. What happened? Where's Alex?



PAGE THIRTEEN


INTERCUT BACK TO:

INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- NIGHT

TONY (on phone)
Uh, we didn't -- I mean, he didn't -- he didn't --

[We hear Susan from his phone: "He didn't what?"]

TONY (on phone)
We ran into a problem. Alex is gone. He's been
shot. I couldn't help him. [He bangs his fist on the table.]
Dammit, I told him to run! I told him to run! [Tony
breaks into tears and the conversation ends. Screen
goes black.]

CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: Three Days Later

Tony, visiting several music industry executives as part of his investigation of
Alex's death, stops at a corporate office on West 57th St., the headquarters of
the small Pacific Records label, whose president is STAN TILDEN.


INT. RECEPTION AREA OF STAN TILDEN'S OFFICE -- DAY

Tony pushes open the glass door (bearing the words "Pacific Records -- Stan
Tilden, President") and approaches the RECEPTIONIST, a new wave
looking woman in her early twenties.

RECEPTIONIST
Stan's been waiting for you. Come in.


PAGE FOURTEEN

INT. STAN TILDEN'S OFFICE -- DAY

Tony walks into Tilden's office, which has a 25th-floor view of midtown
Manhattan and gold records on the walls. On one wall is a framed yellowed
Billboard magazine clipping with the headline: "Pacific Signs Brendan
Skye." Tilden, who looks a bit like Harry Dean Stanton in his thirties, still
speaks with a southeastern accent, a holdover from his North Carolina
upbringing, though he's a long-time New Yorker.

TILDEN
Glad you could come.

TONY
My pleasure.

They both shake hands and sit down.


TILDEN
Awful thing that happened to Alex. I hear you're investigating
it. Any idea who did it?


TONY
Not yet. [Tony takes out his tape recorder and puts it on
his desk.] Mind if I record this?


TILDEN
No, go ahead.


TONY
Alex told me he had had lunch with you the day he died.



PAGE FIFTEEN


TILDEN
We did, we did. I remember…he was scared that day.


TONY
Of what?


TILDEN
Look, Tony, I want this so far off the record we're in
Guam, hear?


TONY
Okay, we're in Guam.


TILDEN
[pause] Alex told me the pressure was getting to be more
than he could bear. Promoters wanted to buy their way to
the top of the charts. [Lights a cigarette nervously.] I run
Pacific Records, so I shouldn't even be talking to you. But I
loved that kid. So let me put it this way: Let's suppose.

TONY
Okay. Let’s suppose.


TILDEN
Let's suppose promoters paid for a top ten position by
overpaying for advertisements in the magazine. Y'know,
placing a full-pager but paying double.


TONY
Just supposing.




PAGE SIXTEEN


TILDEN
And suppose everybody before Alex, including Joe Montana,
always took the bribes, but Alex didn't.


TONY
Who was pressuring him most?


TILDEN
I don't name no names. But it can be figured out. Just
look at who was taking out advertisements in the
weeks before the murder and see if the advertised record got
a number in Big Hitz that was higher -- substantially higher --
than the honest number in Billboard.


TONY
But Big Hitz and Billboard have different reporting
stations, don't they?


TILDEN
Not that different. Also, look at the Big Hitz number for
the advertised record the week Alex took over compared
to its number during the last week Montana worked. In
other words, look at the charts the first week the bribes
weren't happening. Just supposin' now.


TONY
But how do you connect the ads to any one person?




PAGE SEVENTEEN


TILDEN
The promoter's name is listed at the bottom of the ad.
That's your man.


TONY
Alright tell me this: why would a singer pay to get on a chart
everyone knows is rigged?


TILDEN
'Cause not everyone knows it's rigged. A high chart
number in any trade's a huge boost. See,
Big Hitz may be out to lunch, but it's out to lunch in 17
countries and Puerto Rico -- the only trade besides Billboard that's
worldwide. So even small ball promoters'll pay
$10-$15 thou per record.


TONY
It's that serious?


TILDEN
Someone's dead, ain’t they? You tell me. [He gets
buzzed by the receptionist.] Look, gotta step. But good
luck with finding out who did this. By the way,
how's Brendan?


TONY
He's fine. Still managing Custer. New album
drops Tuesday. “Last Stand.”




PAGE EIGHTEEN


TILDEN
You know, I'm glad I signed Brendan back in '79 but his record
just didn't sell. It just didn’t sell, man. We did everything we
could for it. Promoted it to the sky. But I think he’s better
off as a manager. And I always tell him, if he ever runs into any
financial trouble to call my bro Paul on Wall Street.


TONY
Brendan’s a pal. Could’ve been a Forbert, maybe a
Prine. .I knew him when he lived on Mulberry and then in that dump on Mott.


TILDEN
I remember Mott. Toxic dump, is more like it. That’s where you
have to live if your album doesn’t sell. [laughs]


TONY
He’s on Waverly now. Nice place, but he still
wishes he were gigging. Anyway, thanks for your time, Stan.
[He takes his tape recorder
and puts it in his bag.]


Tony walks through the reception area (the receptionist waves sweetly),opens
the glass doors and walks out into the waiting area for the elevator.


INT. ELEVATOR WAITING AREA -- DAY

Tony waits for the elevator and is abruptly approached by an absurdly FEARFUL GUY in his forties wearing slightly ridiculous cloak-and-dagger garb, his collar pulled up and a hat pulled down.


FEARFUL GUY

[Comically nervous] Are you that reporter
asking about the murder?

TONY

I'm a reporter, yeah.

FEARFUL GUY

Well, I'm Calvin Hoover, indie promoter. And I know the
secret story behind the Darrow murder. [Looks around
furtively.] It was a mistaken identity hit.

PAGE NINETEEN


TONY
How do you know that?


CALVIN HOOVER
The killer wanted to murder me instead. He mistook
Alex for me.


TONY
[incredulous] You?! You’re serious?


CALVIN HOOVER
Absolutely. I'm very outspoken, controversial.


TONY
Mr. Hoover, you said your name was?


CALVIN
Calvin.


TONY
Calvin, with all due respect, you don't look anything like
Alex. I mean, you're white and Alex is black.
Alex was in his twenties and you're not.


Calvin is startled by a loud ring from the elevator, which has just arrived.


CALVIN HOOVER
They're coming for me! I can feel it!


Calvin runs for the stairway and disappears.

Tony shakes his head, smiles and calmly boards the elevator.



PAGE TWENTY


CUT TO:

INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- DAY

Tony sits down at the rectangular table, the overhead fan spinning.


DET. DALEY
So you're investigating the murder as a freelancer.


TONY
Yeah. Wondering if you have any leads yet?


DET. DALEY
Nothing that would've caused a bloody nose much
less murder.


TONY
People in certain circles say it was music-related, he was
killed because he refused bribes.


DET. DALEY
We've looked into that, talked to the main promoters:
Dykstra, Vance Wurmland, that guy Tom Coffee. What
a character, that Tom Coffee. He'll talk your ear off about
Presley. [Imitating him] "Elvis owes me money!"



PAGE TWENTY-ONE


TONY [laughs]
He told me that, too. “’Blue Hawaii’ was my idea!” Funny.


They share a laugh.


TONY
Everyone's pointing to a promo guy named Frank Buzzardi,
nicknamed The Buzz.


DET. DALEY
[turns red in the face] Who?



TONY
Buzzardi. Three completely separate sources went out
of their way to say he might be involved.


DET. DALEY
Who says that?


TONY
That's confidential.


DET. DALEY
[Trying to change the subject.] So did you know Alex well?


TONY
Oh, yeah. Met him right after I moved to Manhattan
from Burbank.





PAGE TWENTY-TWO



Tony's face is seen in a tight shot, as he flashes back in memory.


CUT TO:


EXT. AERIAL VIEW OF SAN FERNANDO VALLEY -- AFTERNOON

We see vast stretches of deep suburbia, palm trees and lots of sunlight that
contrast with the dim police station of the previous scene.


TONY [voiceover]
I came up in the San Fernando Valley suburbs, where
my first real job was as a newswriter for the
Los Angeles Chronicle.


EXT. THE L.A. CHRONICLE OFFICES -- AFTERNOON

Wide shot of the newspaper building and adjacent hotel (on Sunset Blvd. east
of Fairfax in L.A.). There's a sign saying: "Temporary Offices of the L.A.
Chronicle" and a next door sign reading: "Mirage Motel: Weekly Rates."


CUT TO:

INT. NEWSROOM OF THE L.A. CHRONICLE -- AFTERNOON

A younger Tony (circa 1979) sits at his newsroom desk while an EDITOR
with a serious sunburn, Barnum Wiggles, stands over him against a
backdrop of loud overhead florescent lights.


EDITOR
Okay, no more daredevil stuff. I heard you chased the
guy on trial for killing his wife -- the CEO of Circuit
Cartel -- down the courthouse hallway, asking him
repeatedly whether he had found the murderer of
his wife yet.


PAGE TWENTY-THREE



TONY
I sure did. He always says he's looking for the killer and
denies he did it. So I simply asked whether he
had found the culprit.


EDITOR
Three times?


TONY
He didn't answer me the first two.


EDITOR
I guess it wouldn't mean anything if you knew he sits on
the board of a company that’s one of our biggest
advertisers.


TONY
No, it wouldn't.


EDITOR
Look, Tony, the "without fear-or-favor" thing only applies
to non-advertisers. We've got to fear and favor our boosters
if we're going to stay in business. And if that's not okay
with you, you're free to go to Greenwich Village [he
pronounces it Green-witch] or some place.


TONY (voice over)
So I did.


PAGE TWENTY-FOUR


CUT TO:

EXT. AERIAL SHOT OF MANHATTAN SKYLINE -- AFTERNOON


The rousing opening chords of The Clash”’s “Death or Glory" accompany an aerial view of midtown Manhattan that shifts toward the East Village. The panorama moves lower and lower toward the East Village as the song continues through its instrumental intro, gradually zooming to street level on the Bowery near Bleecker Street.


TITLE CARD: The spring of 1979, the East Village.


EXT. BLEECKER STREET SIDEWALK -- DAY

Tony walks west along Bleecker Street from the CBGBs rock club.

The sidewalk is crowded with New Wave and Punk aficionados in their early
twenties wearing wraparound shades, Fiorucci pants, and t-shirts with the
names of bands and clubs like Richard Hell, the Mudd Club, U.K. Squeeze.

People are carrying copies of newspapers and fanzines like the New York
Rocker, the East Village Eye and the Soho Weekly News. We hear the
Talking Heads's "City" as Tony, with a slightly spikey haircut and a
characteristically conservative button-down shirt, walks to the offices of the
East Village Eye.


EXT. EAST VILLAGE EYE NEWSPAPER BUILDING -- AFTERNOON

Tony walks into a building on Bleecker that has an East Village Eye sign in
the window; there's an incidental sign nearby reading "Tailors since 1919."





PAGE TWENTY-FIVE

CUT TO:

INT. EAST VILLAGE EYE NEWSPAPER OFFICE -- AFTERNOON

Tony walks through the loft offices of the Eye, which is divided by partitions
into large cubicles adorned with rock posters, bumper stickers and buttons.

A young Alex is deep in thought, editing copy in front of a poster reading, "If
It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth A Shit" and "Nuke the Knack" as Squeeze's "Up
the Junction" plays from a turntable.

TONY
Mistah Alex!


ALEX
[Initially startled] My main man!


They high five each other.


ALEX
[Holds up a telephone message.] Message from Brendan
Skye, that folksinger guy.


TONY
What'd he want?


ALEX
Says your glowing review landed him a record deal.




PAGE TWENTY-SIX


TONY
Really? With who?


ALEX
Pacific Records. He was signed by Stan Tilden himself.
Might get the opening spot on the Steve Forbert tour.


TONY
Wow. Gotta call 'im.


ALEX
So who's on the cover, chief?

TONY
Toss-up: the Clash or the Records. Whatdya think?


ALEX
"Starry Eyes" is huge.


TONY
Yeah, but we've got a real Clash scoop: they're playing
a secret benefit for the East Village Hunger Project.


ALEX
As part of their 30 nights or whatever at Bonds?




PAGE TWENTY-SEVEN



TONY
Separate. Nobody knows about it yet, not even the
Soho Weekly News. I found out through a political
source: Susan Adler.


ALEX
Susan Adler? Never heard of her.


TONY
She's amazing. She approached Joe Strummer cold backstage
and convinced him to do the show for free.


ALEX
That's something.


TONY
She's something. She comes from old money in the Village
but donates most of it to stuff like building schools in
El Salvador. Lives right on Washington Square. We did a
photo shoot of her with members of the Clash.



Tony takes out photos of a younger Susan with the band. Susan, dark-skinned and pretty, with a haircut like a campanile bell, smiles warmly in one picture. In another shot, she mischievously flashes the "v" sign behind Joe Strummer's head.


ALEX
Hmm. I think I'm in love. [pause] Is that a
conflict-of-interest? [They laugh.]


PAGE TWENTY-EIGHT


CUT BACK TO:

INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- AFTERNOON

At the desk, with the overhead fan turning, Tony and the detective continue
talking.


TONY
Any other leads you can tell me about?


DET. DALEY
We're checking a witness who says she saw a male
black running from the scene.


TONY
A black male?


DET. DALEY
Yeah, a male black, which would sort of refute your
theory, right? It might just be some black guy
who did it.


TONY

[slightly angry] What do you mean, 'just some black guy'?!


DET. DALEY
I'm just saying what the witness said. [Suspicious and going
on the offensive a bit.] And by the way, how come
you seem to know so much about this case anyway?


PAGE TWENTY-NINE


TONY
Shoe leather and phone calls, simple as that. [Stands
up and pulls out a business card.] Here's my card. Feel
free to call if you find something.


DET. DALEY
[Popping chewing gum in his mouth and eyeing
Tony suspiciously.] Uh huh.



Tony leaves the room.


CUT TO:

INT. BRENDAN SKYE'S WEST VILLAGE BROWNSTONE -- DINNER
HOUR

BRENDAN SKYE, a bearded mid-thirties former folksinger who now
manages alternative rock acts for a living, opens the door.

They hug as sunlight streams at a late-afternoon angle. Tony is wearing
a "Death or Glory" sweatshirt with long sleeves.


BRENDAN
Am I glad to see you in one piece!


TONY
Same here.

Tony steps into the living room, which is full of light, plants, a couple cats,
and a framed poster: "Brendan Skye Live at Folk City."



PAGE THIRTY

GENEVA MASON, wife of Brendan, comes in with a coffee cup that has a
Barnard College decal on it; she has very short blonde hair and wears a
Phranc t-shirt. The coffee is steaming and the air-conditioning is on. She
embraces Tony



GENEVA
I'm so sorry about what happened. Are you okay?


TONY
I'm alright. Close one, but I’m ok.


GENEVA
Have you seen Susan?


TONY
Not since I told her the news that night.


BRENDAN
Geneva's been visiting her just about every night.
Says she seems depressed.


TONY
I'm not. I'm angry. I wanna find out who did this.


BRENDAN
Be careful. For all you know, you'll be fighting 50 thugs.


TONY
50 thugs, 50 bullets.

PAGE THIRTY-ONE


BRENDAN
They'll come after you.


TONY
50 thugs, 50 bullets. Nobody's more powerful than a bullet.
If push comes to shove that is.


BRENDAN
You're always taking too many chances, Tony.


TONY
That's what Alex said the night he died. He said I was
either brave or suicidal, he hadn't decided which.
[They laugh mildly.]


BRENDAN
Well, we have some good news amidst all the tragedy. Geneva?


GENEVA
I'm finally pregnant.


TONY
Congrats!


GENEVA
We've tried for years. Not that I've minded the trying.


She nudges Brendan affectionately.


PAGE THIRTY-TWO

TONY
What are you going to name him or her?

GENEVA
We were thinking Alex or Alexa.


TONY
Alex, Alexa: I like that.


BRENDAN
So you were saying on the phone you wanted to look
at some charts?


TONY
Yeah, if that's okay.


BRENDAN
Come on in.


INT. DEN OF BRENDAN'S APARTMENT -- LATE AFTERNOON

Brendan escorts Tony to his den, which is lined with bound volumes of music
trade magazines and books.


BRENDAN
My archive. Charts dating back to '53.




PAGE THIRTY-THREE


TONY
Do you have the Billboard and Big Hitz charts for the weeks
before and after Alex died?


BRENDAN
I think so. Have a seat.

Brendan takes two bound volumes from the shelves; one is labeled
"Billboard," the other "Big Hitz."

TONY
[flipping through the books] Just checking out a theory.


In Big Hitz, he comes to a cluster of advertisements. One ad reads: "'Cold
Sunshine' by The Pillagers -- National CHR promotion by Frank 'The Buzz'
Buzzardi."

Next ad reads: "DMV releases "Always," the new single: promotion by The
Buzz (Call 1-800-The Buzz)."


TONY
[flipping through the magazine] Just before Alex died, the
Buzz was pushing two songs: "Cold Sunshine"
and "Always." Took out big ads in Big Hitz.


BRENDAN
How'd they chart?


TONY
Let's see.


PAGE THIRTY-FOUR


Tony turns to the Big Hitz masthead: "Joe Montana, Chart Director; Alex
Darrow, Research Assistant." In the same issue, he turns to the charts: We see:

"Big Hitz Hot 100 Singles Chart"
(week ending May 25, 1987)
Joe Montana, Chart Director//Alex Darrow, Research Assistant.

#1. Tom Blue "Cisco Meltdown"
#2. X-Lover "Leave Me Yesterday"
#3. Lindsey Alvarez "Tell a Stranger Named Me"
#4. Fixed Rig "The Love"





TONY
The week before Alex took over, the songs that were
featured in paid advertisements were in the top five.
Just as I thought.


BRENDAN
How 'bout the week after? When Alex was running things.


They look at the following week's Big Hitz charts.

"Big Hitz Hot 100 Singles Chart"
(week ending June 2, 1987)
Alex Darrow, Temporary Chart Director.

Chart
position Artist Song

#1. DMV "Always
#2. The Pillagers "Cold Sunshine"
#3. X-Lover "Leave Me Yesterday"
#4. Tom Tim "Cisco Meltdown"



PAGE THIRTY-FIVE


TONY
They're not even in the Top Fifty, can you believe it?



He finds the two Buzz-promoted songs – that had been at the top of the charts when the bribe system was in place ---near the very bottom of the charts during Alex’s tenure:

#94. The Pillagers "Cold Sunshine"
#95. Bloodpool "Love Overtime"
#96. DMV "Always"



TONY
Both songs are way down at 94 and 96 the week
the pay-offs stopped.

BRENDAN
A ninety point drop in a week! Unbelievable! Where
does Billboard put them?


Tony turns to the Billboard singles charts for the same weeks and finds that
both of Buzzardi's songs, "Cold Sunshine" and "Always," were at #92 and
#98, respectively, for both weeks.



TONY
Both Buzz songs are at 92 and 98 for both weeks
in Billboard. Exactly where Alex put them, too.


Tony and Brendan hover over the charts excitedly.


BRENDAN
Shit almighty, Tony. You've gotta go to someone
with this --


PAGE THIRTY-SIX


TONY
I know --


BRENDAN
'Cause this is like really --


TONY
I know. But the cops aren't listening to me.


BRENDAN
Figures. [lights a cigarette] Buzzardi has major clout with
the Sixth precinct. Two uncles and a cousin on the force.
One uncle wounded in the line of duty, retired with a gold
shield, though it was later taken away after an investigation.

TONY
No wonder Daley sees no evil.


BRENDAN
The Feds don't care, either, 'cause the money's too small to
make the radar. Buzzardi takes in thirty thou a year on
chart-fixing, which may not be the hundred-thou DiSapio pulls,
but it's not nothing. Particularly if it's everything he earns.


TONY
Why would anyone pay a promoter to buy numbers on
a chart everyone knows is corrupt?



PAGE THIRTY-SEVEN


BRENDAN
Because not everyone knows it's corrupt. Big Hitz freshens
up the front office with a name writer every few years
to give them credibility, which covers them to run a back office
sewer in chart fraud and coin op.


TONY
Tilden says Buzzardi had a key to the Big Hitz offices and
their computer passwords even after he left the magazine.


BRENDAN
He did. And enforced things with threats, violence. He's
openly violent and doesn't much care who sees it. He once
tried to rip out the eyeball of a rack-jobber backstage at a
Loverboy show in '83 in front of, like, seven people and a cop.


CUT TO (as the "Brendan voiceover" (above) is heard):

INT. BACKSTAGE AT LOVERBOY CONCERT -- NIGHT

Buzzardi digs vigorously into the eyesocket of someone and a stream of blood squirts
from the victim's face onto Buzzardi and all over the cold cuts and fruit on the backstage
table as several people watch in horror.

BRENDAN (voiceover):
Only thing that stopped him
was the blood spurting all
over his Brioni suit and
the food. True story.



PAGE THIRTY-EIGHT


CUT BACK TO:

INT. DEN OF BRENDAN'S APARTMENT -- DINNER HOUR


TONY
Why hasn't the press exposed him?


BRENDAN
Too smalltime. The NBC expose mostly caught the big fish.


Geneva walks in.



GENEVA
Bren, aren't we supposed to go to the Pointblank party?


BRENDAN
If you want to, honey. But I've gotta be up early for NARM.


TONY
[Looks at watch] Thanks for reminding me. I'm meeting
Susan at the party. Let's connect later, okay?


BRENDAN
Sure. And say hi to Susan.


GENEVA
Give her my love.



Tony leaves.


PAGE THIRTY-NINE



CUT TO:

EXT. CBGB ROCK CLUB -- EVENING

The sidewalk and street in front of CBGBs is packed with alternative rock
fans in ragged garb and bizzers in hip suits. Sign on the door reads: "Closed
for Private Party."

Tony opens the door, hearing a blast of loud recorded music, and walks in.



INT. CBGB ROCK CLUB -- EVENING

Tony walks by numerous partygoers and hears fragments of conversation.


PARTYGOER WITH SQUEAKY VOICE
Such a buzz around Pointblank -- and Minneapolis.


PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT
Not every Minneapolis band'll make it big. I bet Soul Asylum stays indie.


PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT
[to previous partygoer] My ears are still ringing from their '85 show.


PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT
[to previous partygoer] My ears are still ringing from Altamont.



PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT
[to previous partygoer] Huh?



PAGE FORTY


PARTYGOER IN A "REPLACEMENTS" T-SHIRT
[to previous partygoer] I said, my ears are still ringing from Altamont.



PARTYGOER WITH A MOHAWK HAIRCUT
[to previous partygoer] Can't hear ya.


Tony continues to walk toward the club's stage.


PARTYGOER WITH A GOATEE

R.E.M. will never have another hit as big, commercially, as "Fall
on Me" -- they've peaked.


PARTYGOER IN A TURTLENECK WITH AFRO
Sifo Mabuse is giving a benefit against apartheid.


PARTYGOER WITH BLONDE HAIR
[to previous partygoer] Great cause, but it won't do any good.
Apartheid has about as much chance of falling as the Berlin
Wall or the twin towers.


PARTYGOER WITH A LISP
The drummer's not so smart. He was at 21 and a waiter asked
if anyone knew the Heimlich Maneuver. He goes, "Yeah"
and gives the Nazi salute. [demonstrates stiff arm salute]




PAGE FORTY-ONE

PARTYGOER WITH LONG BEARD
[to previous partygoer] You just don't understand
his creative tension.


PARTYGOER WITH A LISP
[to previous partygoer] There's a fine line between creative
tension and just being uptight.



Tony steps to the bar and orders a beer. JIM JOLSON, A&R vice president
for a major label, approaches with THREE MEMBERS OF A ROCK BAND
in their late teens.


JOLSON
Tony, you gotta meet these guys. This is Kurt, Krist and
Chad of Nirvana. I'm thinking of signin' 'em.


TONY
[to band] You guys done any records yet?


TEENAGED KURT COBAIN
[Shyly] We'll have one next year on Sub Pop, an indie
out of Seattle. They released Green River and stuff.


THIRD PARTY TO CONVERSATION
[to Cobain] Advice: move out of Seattle, if you wanna make it big.
Nobody but Heart ever came from Seattle.


JOLSON [to Tony]
Check this out.


PAGE FORTY-TWO


Jolson shows Tony a Pointblank promotional water pistol that publicists are
passing out at the club.


TONY
Another schlocky promo toy.


Susan Adler, wearing sunglasses that don't quite cover the fact that she's been
crying, walks quickly into the club and heads toward the cul de sac to the side
of the stage. Heads turn and people talk as she walks in.



JOLSON
Look who just walked in: Sue Adler.


TONY
Gotta split.


TONY
[waves to get her attention] Susan!


SUSAN
Hi Tony. How's your story going?


TONY
Lots of leads I'll tell you about later.


SUSAN
Wanna get together and trade notes?


PAGE FORTY-THREE


TONY
How about tomorrow?


SUSAN
Great.


Suddenly, a partygoer jokingly jumps in front of Susan with his water pistol
drawn. Susan reflexively kicks him in the groin.


SUSAN (to prankster)
You motherfucker! Comin' at me with a gun!


The prankster holds his crotch in pain as a small crowd begins to gather.


TONY
It's a toy, Susan, only a toy.


Susan, incredibly upset, walks briskly to the exit, with Tony a distance behind her.


EXT. CBGB -- NIGHT

Susan climbs into a cab on the Bowery. Tony knocks on the car window and
Susan lowers it.


SUSAN

Tony, I just don't want to talk now, okay? To anyone
now, okay? [Tony: "Okay."]



Tony watches as the cab drives away.


PAGE FORTY-FOUR


CUT TO:

EXT. WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK-- MORNING

Tony walks past a group of six jugglers passing balls to one another and a
guitar player performing near Washington Square Park before crossing to
Susan's apartment house.


INT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT -- MORNING

Susan's apartment is decorated with a hip old money sense of good taste. The
large living room window has a third floor view of the arch in Washington
Square Park. An original Warhol portrait hangs on the wall.


TONY
Hi Susan.


SUSAN
Come in.


TONY
[pointing to the Warhol] Wow! Is that an original Warhol?


SUSAN
Yeah. Warhol painted my great-grandfather John Adler,
the congressman.


TONY
Your great-grandfather was a congressman?


PAGE FORTY-FIVE


SUSAN
Represented downtown Manhattan for one term. He
once told me, "A congressman is less powerful
than a file clerk, if you're not the party in power."


TONY
Probably true. [pause] By the way, sorry about that guy last night --


SUSAN
Forget last night.


TONY
So you doing all right?



SUSAN
I miss Alex and my life the way it was. Otherwise, I'm fine.


TONY
Same here.


SUSAN
I've even thought about seeing a shrink but don't think
so. Shrinks always seem less perceptive than me.


TONY
Yeah.



PAGE FORTY-SIX


SUSAN
Didja see the new Billboard? Some guy calls the murder
"music-related"?



TONY
You're kidding?


SUSAN
No, it quotes someone saying, [she reads from the article]
"'We will not hide from music-business related terror,'
said a senior executive who spoke on condition of anonymity."


TONY
My sources say it was hit, too. But who ordered it? Did
Alex mention any threats?


SUSAN
Come to think of it, there were quasi-threatening
messages on his answering machine.


TONY
Like what?


SUSAN
Like, oh, things you can't really put your finger on.
Like: [she imitates a hard sell voice] "Are you blind or
going blind? If so, enroll in blah blah Braille School" left
three or four times a day. Followed by two-second messages
of random stuff like: "Wheelchairs are a big expense."




PAGE FORTY-SEVEN



TONY
Anyone threaten him explicitly?


SUSAN
Not really. But the messages started after Alex sent
back a $700 bribe from a promoter who calls
himself the Buzz.


TONY
Everyone mentions him. I'm even interviewing him tomorrow.


SUSAN
The Buzz agreed to talk?!


TONY
Actually, he's probably checking me out to see what I know.




SUSAN
[excited] Let's connect after. Come by after dinner.
[Tony: "Sure.']



CUT TO:

EXT. THE BUZZ'S OFFICE -- AFTERNOON

Tony walks into a dilapidated building that houses the Buzz's office on West
14th Street off 10th Ave. in the meat-packing district. There's a butcher shop
in the first floor storefront and a police car parked out front.



PAGE FORTY-EIGHT


INT. THE BUZZ'S OFFICE -- AFTERNOON

Tony enters the Buzz's dark cluttered office, which looks as if time stopped in
1959. On the walls are posters and pictures of music events of the Fifties,
mostly local ones: "Flatbush Rockabilly Fest '56"; "The Roasters Play
Coney Island"; "Free Alan Freed." The room doesn't have a reception desk
or a computer and the clock on the wall is stopped at noon.

Seated behind a desk is Frank Buzzardi, a rough-looking, tough-talking guy
around 60 with tinted glasses, a full head of gray hair and acne scarring on his
face.

His assistant, Sammy Stompeto, is a thin, thirty-year-old, dark-haired guy
wearing all black and a gold chain around his neck. He looks a bit like a
bartender at a strip bar and walks with a slight limp.


THE BUZZ
Come in.


TONY
[taking a seat] Thanks for granting me the interview.




THE BUZZ
Better interview me now, 'cause I'm an endangered species.
You don't find 'em like me in the biz any more. [Yells to
Sammy: "Sammy! My pills!"] Then to Tony: "Hypertension."


TONY
[Noticing tuning fork pens on his desk] Interesting pens.



PAGE FORTY-NINE



THE BUZZ
Ya want one? Promo thing for radio. See, I got character.
Back in the Fifties, we was all characters. I was there at the
birth of rock 'n' roll, staring down at the cradle, I sure was,
when the babe was rattling 'n' rockin' for the first time. Today,
the biz is all lawyers, accountants -- they don't know
nothin' 'bout music. [Shouts: "Sammy!"]


Sammy, walking with slight limp, rushes in with the pills and a deferential,
"Here, boss."


THE BUZZ
Hey, Sammy, you gonna do that brake adjustment this weekend?


SAMMY
Sure, boss.


Sammy walks from the room.


THE BUZZ
Crack mechanic, Sammy is. The best in car repair before
he came to work for me.




TONY
So how long have you been in the music business?


PAGE FIFTY


THE BUZZ
I started as a producer in the Bronx in '55, recording
The Klezmers. The neighborhood was so rough back then
you can hear gunshots from the street on our first record,
if you listen close. We left the shots in. We useta joke that
song was number five with a bullet -- literally!
[laughs roughly] Later, I got into promotion, sold the studio,
and worked with the Chevettes, J.B. Preston -- that was
before he was with The Troubles -- and the Fontana Five.


TONY
I'm sure you've heard the accusation: some say you
might've manipulated the charts over the years.


THE BUZZ
Look, it's my cocksuckin' job to manipulate them charts, okay?!
[He pops a pill without water.] Every promoter everywhere
manipulates them charts, that's why they pay us. I get paid
to make my records number one, okay? Promoters get paid
to promote, okay? My job is to do whatever I gotta do to
get PDs, GMs, DJs, chart guys off the dime. [Shouts:
"Sammy! Water!" We hear "Yes, boss," offscreen.]


TONY
I read in a newspaper where you were charged with payola in 1963 --



THE BUZZ
And proud of it. 'Cause payola should be legal, and
them DJs should pay to play my records, I always say.
Radio ain’t even good enough to play most my stuff!


PAGE FIFTY-ONE

TONY
There's also talk the murder of Alex Darrow was
somehow linked to chart rackets.


THE BUZZ
I don't know nothing about no murder or no chart racket
whatsoever. [Sammy brings him water, and the Buzz drinks it.]

TONY

Some have gone so far as to link the Darrow thing to you
in some way.

THE BUZZ

Some people'll say anything about anybody. Don't make
it true, do it? I'll let ya in on a secret, kid: no accuser is
ever gonna stop Frank Buzzardi from conducting business.
No way, no how, nowhere. I've survived since the Fifties,
and not everyone did. I survived 'cause me and Morris and
Hy and all them guys had a rule: you never let a man
mess with your business. Me, I've always carried my
own personal bodyguard. [He reaches to the small of his
back and casually tosses a revolver on the desk.] He's named
Smith & Wesson. Go ahead, touch it. It's a $25,000
custom-made .44. Bought with royalties from
"Sweet Talk 'n' Jive."


TONY
[handling the gun] You ever shot someone with it?



PAGE FIFTY-TWO



THE BUZZ
I might. If some cocksucker comes up to me and wants
my fuckin' wallet, you think I'm not going to blow his freakin'
brains out? If some cocksucker tries to take away my business,
I assure you he'll come down with some incurable
lead poisoning, he sure will. [He takes the gun back.]

THE BUZZ
Watch this.



Buzzardi reaches into his desk drawer and pulls out an old-fashioned revolver. He puts a single bullet in it and spins the chamber..


The phone rings.


SAMMY
[With phone in his hand] It's Daley at the Sixth.


THE BUZZ
I'll call him in five. [Turns to Tony.] OK, kid, there’s one very real
bullet in this revolver.


He spins the chamber, puts the pistol to his own temple and, without
hesitation, pulls the trigger. Tony turns white in the face, watching in horror.


THE BUZZ
[Throwing the revolver to his desktop] Remember, Tony.
The person who wins is always the person who is willing to lose it all.
Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to talk more, but I’ve got to call
my friend Daley.


TONY
Thanks for your time. By the way, you said Daley was on
the phone. That’s Detective Daley of the Sixth Precinct?


THE BUZZ
Yeah, Daley. I known him for years. We shoot at the
range together. [picks up the phone and starts dialing.]


TONY
Thanks again.


Sammy escorts Tony to the door, and we see a tight shot of Sammy. We see
scarring on the right side of Sammy's head of the sort that might have been
caused by a bullet grazing.



PAGE FIFTY-FOUR


CUT TO:

EXT. BUZZ'S OFFICE BUILDING -- AFTERNOON

Tony walks from the building, where a police car is parked and two cops are
looking at him suspiciously. They briefly sound their siren.



CUT TO:

INT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- NIGHT


TONY
[Popping the cork from a Champagne bottle.] And so he pulls
out a pistol. [imitating Buzzardi's gruff speech] "It's a
$25,000 custom-made .44. Bought with royalties from
"Sweet Talk 'n' Jive." [They both laugh.]



PAGE FIFTY-FIVE


SUSAN
Whatta thug. Sounds like some guy straight out of that book "Hit Men."


TONY
I was thinkin' that, too. And it’s funny: the sweeter the music, the
chewier the bubble gum, the more vicious the players.


SUSAN
Ain’t dat the truth!


Tony pours Champagne for both of them, and they toast.


TONY
Here's to finding the guy who killed Alex.


SUSAN
You bet.


They clink glasses and sip Champagne.


TONY
Oh, by the way, before I forget. [He pulls a Tuning Fork
pen out of his pocket.] I thought I’d return this. It’s
Alex’s BuzzPen, the tuning fork thing.
Picked it up at the crime scene. Thought you might want it.


SUSAN
That’s not Alex’s, Tony.. That novelty
pen he liked. That was on his body when he died. The
police gave it to me that week. Here. [She pulls it from a
container of pens.]


TONY
You sure?


SUSAN
No doubt.


TONY
Because this one was lying right next to him as he was
bleeding on the street.


SUSAN
Whoa! You think – you think it might have dropped out of
the gunman’s pocket when he leaned over Alex –


TONY
I’m wondering. Unless Alex had two BuzzPens.


SUSAN
Possible.


TONY
Also possible it was the gunman’s. Guess it’s too
late to check for prints.


SUSAN
If it was the killer’s, then it points where we’re looking.


TONY
Buzzardi. Sure does. Sure does. Though Alex could’ve had two.


SUSAN
Could’ve.



PAGE FIFTY-SIX

They walk out to the balcony, with flowers in pots and a view of Washington
Square Park.


TONY
How'd you get such a great apartment?


SUSAN
It's been handed down in the family for three generations.


TONY
It's like a movie set.


SUSAN
So you think Buzzardi was capable of killing --

TONY
Capable of anything. I mean, re-open the file on Amelia
Earhart; he probably has her in a trunk.


They casually stroll back from the balcony to the apartment. Susan puts on
some music -- Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me" plays -- and they both sink
into a deep pillowed couch, both slightly tipsy.


SUSAN
So you still having nightmares about that night?


PAGE FIFTY-SEVEN


TONY
Not anymore. And to tell the truth, there're some days
when I wake up invigorated because I sort of wasn't
supposed to live to see this day. There's nothing like missing
a bullet to make you feel so totally alive.


SUSAN
Know what you mean. Fuck survivor's guilt.


We hear a Dylan lyric from the stereo: "Meanwhile life outside goes on all
around you."


TONY
Can you believe the cop called it a possible black-on-black crime?
I never really thought of Alex as black, even though he was.


SUSAN
Same here. When I had a tan, my arms were actually
darker than Alex's.


TONY
Even my taste in music was blacker than his; I liked Melle
Mel, he liked Zep. [pause] Did you know we were gonna
room together in '80 but I didn't want to commit to a
two-year lease?


SUSAN
That was you back then: afraid of commitment. You couldn't
even decide whether you wanted to stay in New York or
move back to Burbank.


PAGE FIFTY-EIGHT


TONY
Lack of money can sometimes make you seem
like you can't commit.


Tony spots some unusual looking binoculars on her coffee table.



TONY
What're these? [He looks through them.] They make
everything upside down!


SUSAN
They're upside-down binoculars. They're a promo thing
from that band The Upside Downs.


TONY (looking through the binoculars)
Wow! Everything's upside down -- and close.


SUSAN
Is your world upside down?


TONY
[affectionately] Oh, ha ha.


He moves closer to her on the couch and puts down the binoculars.

TONY
This next thing is completely off-the-record, okay? Not
for attribution and on background.


PAGE FIFTY-NINE


SUSAN
Sure. What is it?

He moves over to her as if he's about to whisper something in her ear, pushes
her hair aside and kisses her on the ear and then on the face. They embrace
briefly, but then Susan stands up.



SUSAN
Tony, I like you a lot. But I have my own secret, which
is also completely off the record, okay?


TONY
Okay.


SUSAN
I'm gay. Always have been.


TONY
[shocked] You're kidding?! But what about you and Alex?


SUSAN
Our relationship wasn't that way. Why do
you think we had separate apartments?


TONY
Never would've guessed in a million years.


The phone rings and she picks it up.


PAGE SIXTY


SUSAN (on phone)
Hi, Geneva. [pause] Of course, we're still on. I
wouldn't miss our Tuesday nights for anything. [pause]
Eight's fine. [pause] Okay. [pause] Love you, too.
Bye. [She hangs up the phone.]


SUSAN
[Slightly blushing.] That was Geneva.


TONY
Look, I've gotta run. You wanna go to that thing tomorrow
at the Apollo, the Orphanheart show?


SUSAN
Sounds like fun. I love Sunday afternoon concerts.
Three would be fine.


Tony leaves her apartment.


CUT TO:

EXT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON

Susan bounds from her apartment smiling and wearing a multi-colored flowered dress that's loose and airy, suggesting the quality of a cloud or balloon. She acts like someone glowing from having had sex the night before. Tony is in his car at the curb, and Susan gets in.


PAGE SIXTY-ONE


INT. TONY'S CAR -- AFTERNOON


Tony begins driving from the Village to Harlem, taking the FDR Drive uptown. Windows are open, it's a sunny day and the radio plays John Mellencamp's good-timey "Rumble Seat."

SUSAN
Haven't been to the Apollo since Sly Stone didn't
show there in the Seventies.


TONY
Haven’t been there since George Jones didn’t show
for a special gig.


They laugh, arms out the windows.


TONY
Alex would've loved this gig.


SUSAN
He always liked going to concerts with you.


Tony is driving in the right lane on the FDR Drive when a station wagon (with someone in the back) pulls in front of him at a slow speed.


TONY
Crazy driver!


The station wagon slows even more, causing Tony to tailgate. We see the road ahead
from Tony and Susan's POV through the windshield, while someone in the back of the station wagon opens the rear and throws a large plastic bag of thick red paint at them while shouting, "Next time it'll be blood, asshole!"


PAGE SIXTY-TWO


From the POV of looking out the windshield from the driver’s seat, suddenly the entire windshield turns bright red. Tony, not able to see through the front window, swerves to the side of the road while turning on the wipers, which just smear the paint into varying shapes and shades of red and pink. (We see this from inside the car, of course, and the smearing red paint is all we see on screen for a time. A sort of expressionistic sequence.) Tony sticks his head out the side window to guide the car to the shoulder.

TONY
Can't see a damned thing!


SUSAN
What the hell was that?


TONY
Think it's red paint.


SUSAN
Did you hear what he shouted?


TONY
Yeah: something like, "Next time it'll be blood."


They arrive at the curb, get out, and clean off most of the paint from the
windows and hood with rags from the trunk.


TONY
[Slamming the hood of the car with his fist.] Motherfucker
could've fuckin' killed us!


After getting most of the paint off the windows, Tony throws down the rags and looks at the mess all over his and Susan's clothes.


TONY
Looks like my Fiat's bleeding.



PAGE SIXTY-THREE


SUSAN
Shit. My dress is ruined!



TONY
We can't go to the show like this. What d'ya wanna do?


SUSAN
Should we file a police report?


TONY
Won't do any good. I'll talk to Daley about it later.


SUSAN
You think Geneva and Brendan might be home?


TONY
Let's head over.



CUT TO:

INT. BRENDAN SKYE'S APARTMENT -- EVENING

They ring the bell to Brendan's apartment and Brendan answers the door.


BRENDAN
My god! What happened to you two?


GENEVA
I hope that's just paint. Come in.


PAGE SIXTY-FOUR


TONY
It's just paint. Mostly dry now, though you might wanna
put some newspapers down on the carpet so we don't
track anything in.



Brendan spreads some newspapers on the floor and chairs. Tony and Susan
walk in.


BRENDAN
Can I get you anything?


TONY
Water would be fine.


SUSAN
Same here.


BRENDAN
So what happened?


TONY
Someone threw a plastic bag of red paint at us
as we were cruising on the FDR Drive.


SUSAN
Shouting something like, "Next time it'll be blood."


BRENDAN
Jeez!


Geneva brings in water for everyone.



PAGE SIXTY-FIVE


BRENDAN
Sounds like vintage Buzzardi.




TONY
Tell me about it. But the cops won't listen to me about him.
He’s pals with them.


BRENDAN
I told you.


TONY
Cops act like I'm a suspect.
Even though they probably know better.


BRENDAN
Glad you brought that up, 'cause that's the rumor
I'm hearing, too.


TONY
[enraged] How fuckin' dare they? I'm risking my neck
to solve this and that's what I get?


BRENDAN
Calm down. It's just they see you with Susan.


TONY
So what? We're just friends.


BRENDAN
They don't know that.


TONY
What? They think my life is some sort of noir movie? I'm here
for their tabloid entertainment? Meanwhile I'm going broke.



PAGE SIXTY-SIX



BRENDAN
No good deed goes unpunished, to coin a phrase.
[Looks at watch.] I've got to pick up my car and
head to Bear Mountain; I'm checking out The Confidentials
in a couple hours.


TONY
Need a lift to the auto shop?
The paint’s dry by now.


BRENDAN
I'd appreciate it.


SUSAN
I'll stay here with Geneva. [To Tony] Drop by my
place later tonight, okay?


TONY
Okay. After the Top of the Sixes. [To Brendan] Ready when you are.


CUT TO:

INT. TONY'S CAR -- LATE EVENING

Tony drives Brendan uptown via Broadway.


BRENDAN
It's Piney's Auto Repair on Morningside Heights.




PAGE SIXTY-SEVEN


TONY
I saw Stan Tilden the other day. He says hi.



BRENDAN
Sweet guy. He still feels guilty about dropping me from
his label. But I don't blame him. I mean, my record
just didn't sell.


TONY
Says if you ever need money, call his brother Paul.


BRENDAN
[Smiles] Wall Street Paul, huh? I might take him up on that.
[pause] Can I ask you something personal?


TONY
Sure, Bren.


BRENDAN
You think Geneva is having an affair?


TONY
Why do you ask that?


BRENDAN
I dunno. She's spending a lot of time away, supposedly
with Susan.


Tony's paint-splattered car begins making wheezing noises as it climbs hilly
Morningside Drive in Manhattan.


TONY
Hear that? Bet the paint screwed something up.
Lemme pull over.




PAGE SIXTY-EIGHT


He pulls over on Morningside Dr. where there's a hillside view of upper Manhattan.
Tony jumps out, opens the hood, looks inside and comes back in the car.


TONY
Let the engine cool a minute.


They sit in the car on the hill for a couple minutes and talk.


BRENDAN
So what else did Stan say?


TONY
[pause] He thinks Buzzardi killed Alex.


BRENDAN
But he won't go on the record, right?


TONY
Right. There's so much evidence that cuts both ways.
Like, Buzzardi's assistant has a limp like the gunman, but
that might just be coincidence. We found a BuzzPen at the
crime scene, but Alex might’ve had two.



BRENDAN (shakes head)
I just don't see a happy ending to this.


TONY
Why’s that?


PAGE SIXTY-NINE

BRENDAN
[distant look] I just have a bad feeling. [pause] Y'know,
sometimes I wish I'd stayed a folksinger instead of getting
into the biz. I mighta had a hit by now, if I'd stuck with it.

The car fills with an increasingly bright light from an undetermined source.


TONY
There's still time.


BRENDAN
No, it's too late. It's too late.


TONY
[Looks at watch.] We'd better roll.


He drives to Piney's Auto Repair Shop and drops off Brendan.


BRENDAN
Thanks for the ride.


TONY
Don't mention it.


BRENDAN
[smiles] Have fun at the party. And wear something a little less red!




PAGE SEVENTY


They both chuckle and Tony drives off.



CUT TO:

EXT. 666 FIFTH AVENUE BUILDING -- NIGHT

Shot of the building and the "666" sign at the top.


INT. ANTEROOM OUTSIDE BALLROOM AT 666 FIFTH -- NIGHT

An attendant stands at a podium behind a red velvet rope holding the guest
list to the party.


ATTENDANT
[With Brooklyn accent] Your name, please?


TONY
Tony Armonica, freelance writer.


ATTENDANT
Harmonica?


TONY
No, Armonica. I'm on the Stigma Records list.



PAGE SEVENTY-ONE


ATTENDANT
Sorry, not here.


TONY
What do you mean? Vaccina Bayard put me on personally.


ATTENDANT
First name is Henry?


TONY
No, Tony. T-o-n-y. [Looks over at the guest list himself.]
See! There it is.


ATTENDANT
You don't have to be nasty about it.

A security guard approaches.


GUARD
[To attendant] Is there a problem?


ATTENDANT
[To guard] No, I straightened him out. [To Tony] You can go in now.


Tony walks into the ballroom at 666 Fifth.


PAGE SEVENTY-TWO


INT. BALLROOM AT 666 FIFTH AVE. -- NIGHT

Tony walks into the party as a tape of Husker Du's "Never Talking to You" plays and goes to a table full of cold cuts. Standing next to him is Jack Worstman, a bearded writer for Big Hitz. Tony picks up a plastic fork.


JACK WORSTMAN
[Holds up his hands in mock fright.] Don't kill me! Don't kill me!


TONY
So, Jack Worstman. What are you doing here? It's a cash bar.


JACK WORSTMAN
Very funny. I hear you're gonna stab Big Hitz in the
back with your article. Some gratitude. They hired you
when you were a nobody.


TONY
I'm simply investigating Alex's murder. And how come I'm
the only one from the magazine who's coming forward
about this thing? Which side are you on?




JACK WORSTMAN
Not on the side of the rats, I'll tell you that.
[He shoves baloney in his mouth.]


TONY
No, you're busy with the snakes.



PAGE SEVENTY-THREE


JACK WORSTMAN
C'mon, the Darrow thing was random. Anyone walking
down that street at that time of night woulda been shot.
It was a spur-of-the-moment crime.


TONY
A guy wearing a ski mask is spur-of-the-moment?
And chasing him down and not stealing anything?
It was a hit, Worstman. [He points at Worstman
with a plastic fork.] And you know it. And you're not
doing anything about it.



CUT TO:

EXT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT BUILDING -- LATER THAT NIGHT

Tony walks across the street to Susan's apartment, and a police car at a red
light lurches forward, fayx accidentally, as he walks in front of it.


INT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT -- NIGHT


TONY
Worst party I've been to in a long time. Talked to Jack Worstman.


SUSAN
What'd he have to say?

TONY
Still loyal to Big Hitz and Buzzardi, if you can believe it.



PAGE SEVENTY-FOUR


SUSAN
Gonna write up the party for Music News?


TONY
No. Assignment's canceled. My freelancing's going
down the tubes because of this thing.


SUSAN
Y'know, if it's causing you this much grief, maybe
you oughta consider dropping the story.


TONY
No way. I'm committed to the end.


SUSAN
But look what it's doing to you. You could lose
everything because of this..


TONY
If I don't solve it, who will?


SUSAN
Now you're sounding like me.


TONY
And you're sounding like me.


PAGE SEVENTY-FIVE

Susan switches on the 11pm local news and fixes some coffee. Tony watches
the news inattentively.

On the television screen there's live footage of a mountain cliff illuminated by
police lights, and highway patrolmen looking down at a car that fell into a
deep ravine.


NEWS ANCHOR (on television)
The car fell 100 feet down the cliff, killing the lone occupant
whose identity is still being determined at this hour.


WITNESS (on television)
[upset] He took the turn sharp and looked terrified,
like he was trying to pump the brake but it wouldn't
stop. And he went right over the cliff.



ANCHOR (on television)
The incident happened around two hours ago on
the main highway leading to Bear Mountain.


TONY
Wonder if Brendan saw this accident up on Bear Mountain.


Susan is still making coffee.


SUSAN
What’s that?




PAGE SEVENTY-SIX


TONY
Some guy drove his car off a cliff right around where
Brendan was tonight. Bet he saw the whole thing.


Susan comes out to watch.

SUSAN
How awful.


On the television, we see live footage of the mountainside where the car fell
and a zoom view of the smashed car at the bottom of the valley.


SUSAN
Oh my god, Tony! That's Brendan's Karmann Ghia!


TONY
It is! Oh, no! [He puts his hands over his face, in tears.]



Susan hurls her coffee mug at the TV, smashing the screen.



CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: A month later.

INT. BRENDAN AND GENEVA'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON

Nearly everything in Brendan and Geneva's apartment is packed in boxes and
stacked up, because Geneva is moving out. All the plants are in a corner next
to the "Brendan Skye Live at Folk City" poster. Geneva is visibly pregnant
now.



PAGE SEVENTY-SEVEN


GENEVA
Glad you could help with the move.


TONY
Wish I could do more.


GENEVA
I think it's the best thing for me to move in with Susan.
Can't afford this place without Brendan anymore.
And little Alex'll arrive in a few months.


TONY
I'm moving, too. Next month.


GENEVA
Really? Where to?


TONY
Don't know yet. I'm three months behind on the rent and
not earning any money. I guess I'll try temporary
housing for awhile.


In the sky outside the window is a single large cumulus cloud.


TONY
Have you talked to the police about Brendan?




PAGE SEVENTY-EIGHT


GENEVA
Just an accident, they say. And it might've been.


TONY
But the timing stinks. Like I told them, his brakes
were tampered with in that shop. I just know it.



GENEVA
But proving it – that’s a bear.


TONY
Yeah.


GENEVA
So what's going to happen to you after next month?


TONY
I really don't know. I'm under a cloud till the case is solved.


GENEVA
Keep in touch, will you?


TONY
I will.


What follows is a series of fast forward glimpses of Tony's life through the
Nineties and the 2000s.


CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 1994

INT. DENTIST OFFICE -- DAY

Tony reclines in a dentist's chair and the DENTIST is looking into his mouth.


PAGE SEVENTY-NINE


DENTIST
[shocked] Lord! When was the last time you saw a dentist?


TONY
Several years ago. I've been sort of broke for awhile.




DENTIST
The roots in a few teeth are almost gone. I can recommend
an endodontist.


Tony's cell phone rings while he's in the chair.


TONY
Mind if I take this call?


DENTIST
Be my guest.


TONY (on phone)
Yeah. [pause] I'm trying to get the money to go. I
haven't seen my relatives for years. [pause] Yeah, I'm
losing touch with my roots. [pause] Look, I'm at the
dentist right now. Root canal. I'll call later. [pause] Okay, bye.



CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 1997


PAGE EIGHTY


INT. BUS DRIVING INTO MEXICO -- AFTERNOON

As Los Lobos's "Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir" plays, a bedraggled Tony, now
sporting a beard, rides a ramshackle bus into Tijuana, Mexico, past signs that
say, "Last U.S. Stop" and "Entering Mexico."


EXT. AVENIDA REVOLUCION IN TIJUANA, MEXICO - AFTERNOON

Tony walks with his suitcase and a shoulder bag down Tijuana's main drag
and into a hotel. The sidewalk is crowded with hawkers, barkers and whores.

INT. TIJUANA HOTEL -- AFTERNOON

Tony approaches the desk clerk, who is behind protective hard plastic and
bars. The place looks more like a pawn shop than a hotel.


TONY
Do you speak English? I need a room for a few nights.


DESK CLERK
[in broken English] So why you here?


TONY
Why am I here? I hear it's cheaper than California.


DESK CLERK
I maybe have room. I check for you.


To his left in the lobby, TWO MEXICANS are talking secretively; one
points at Tony and whispers, "Asesino."



PAGE EIGHTY-ONE


CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 1998


INT. CORPORATE OFFICE IN LOS ANGELES -- DAY

Tony is seated at a desk in an office and his BOSS walks by.


BOSS
You're only temping for one day, so I want these letters
alphabetized and filed by five.


CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 1999

INT. TONY'S LOS ANGELES APARTMENT -- NIGHT

Tony is in his seedy Los Angeles apartment as his LANDLORD tries hacking
through the door with a hammer while shouting death threats.


LANDLORD (heard from the other side of the door, where Tony is)
You had your chance to pay rent! Now I'm gonna fuckin' kill you!
[While banging on the door with a hammer.]


Tony calls the cops on his cell phone and we hear a 911 operator from Tony's
end of the phone: "This is 911. What's your emergency?


TONY (on phone)
My landlord is breaking in and threatening to kill me.
Hurry, if you want to save a life.



PAGE EIGHTY-TWO


CUT TO:

TITLE CARD: 2002

INT. LOS ANGELES BRANCH LIBRARY -- AFTERNOON


Tony is at a public branch library in L.A. surfing the Internet. He checks out
several websites before browsing the Hollywood Reporter site. He sees a
headline:

"Arrest Made In 1987 Slaying of Music Charts Worker"

Tony is in shock and stands up at his computer terminal. A LIBRARIAN
approaches from behind him.


LIBRARIAN
Sir, you've used your fifteen minutes computer time. You'll
have to wrap up.

TONY
[Waves her away] Hold on, hold on.

He reads the story aloud to himself:


TONY (reading the story)
"Music promoter Frank 'The Buzz' Buzzardi was arrested today and charged
with first degree murder in the 1987 slaying of Alex Darrow, former music
charts manager for the Big Hitz trade magazine. The case, which had stymied
investigators for years, finally came to a close this morning when Buzzardi,
now a 62-year-old casino pit boss, was captured by Las Vegas police on a
warrant from New York. Investigators theorize Darrow was murdered
because he refused to sell chart numbers for bribes."



PAGE EIGHTY-THREE


CUT TO:


EXT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- AFTERNOON

Tony knocks on Susan's apartment door. She opens it and looks at him with
shock and tears in her eyes, hugging him with a rush of enthusiasm.


SUSAN
You're back! Come in. [Tony: "Thanks."]


Susan hugs him again.


SUSAN
We thought we'd lost you. Last
I heard, you were in Mexico or something.


TONY
That was years ago. I'm okay now but there
were some rough times.


He looks around the apartment and sees a combination of Susan's things and
Geneva's. The Warhol portrait is still on the wall, Geneva's "Brendan Skye
Live at Folk City" poster is on another wall and her plants are
everywhere.

In a corner are a collection of CDs and LPs, including Alex’s "The Tom Jones Fever
Zone."


SUSAN
Geneva's still here. And Alex, her son.


PAGE EIGHTY-FOUR


TONY
Alex must be --


SUSAN
He'll be sixteen next month. Can you believe it?


TONY
The view's the same. [He looks out over the balcony
over Washington Square Park.] There's the arch.


SUSAN
Yeah but the twin towers are gone. We used to
see them from the den.


TONY
Ever see the old crowd? Like Stan Tilden?


SUSAN
Not since 9/11. His brother Paul died in the south tower
collapse, and Stan hasn't been the same since. He doesn't
return my calls anymore.




TONY
Shit! Wall Street Paul! Shit.


PAGE EIGHTY-FIVE


Geneva walks in from the bedroom wearing an Indigo Girls t-shirt, her short
hair now grey.



GENEVA
Tony! I can't believe it!


They hug.


GENEVA
You look great.


TONY
You, too.


A teenage kid who looks strikingly like a very young Brendan Skye comes
from the den.


TEENAGER
Hi mom. I'm heading out to the show.


GENEVA
Alex, first say hello to Tony. He's an old family friend.


ALEX
Hi Tony.


PAGE EIGHTY-SIX


TONY
Hi Alex.


GENEVA
He'll be sixteen next month. And he's playing
guitar and sings just like Brendan.


TONY
[to Alex] So what concert you going to?


ALEX
R.E.M. I'm reviewing it for my school paper.


TONY
[to Geneva] The more things change, huh?


GENEVA
You'd better get going, Alex.


ALEX
Nice meeting you, Tony. [Tony: "Same here."]


Alex walks out the door.


PAGE EIGHTY-SEVEN

We hear R.E.M.'s instrumental "Last Date" in the background.


TONY
I have some good news: I'm moving back to New York.
That new magazine Music Dateline hired me as a writer.
Since I was prove right about Buzzardi, the job offers have
been coming in,




SUSAN
Great. You're welcome to stay here until
you find a place.


TONY
Thanks.


SUSAN
So Buzzardi's in a cage.You had it solved fifteen years ago. If only
the cops had listened to you then.


TONY
Some people have a lot of explaining to do.


PAGE EIGHTY-EIGHT


SUSAN
Can you believe it's finally over?


TONY
Wish I could tell Brendan the good news.



Screen goes black and we hear the song "Heroes" by David Bowie.


TITLE CARD (before the credits roll):


The music business changed its method of compiling charts in 1990, a year
after the homicide on which some of this film is based. The industry now uses
the SoundScan system, which provides a more objective measure of record
units sold.

The murder case on which parts of this film is based was finally solved after
13 years of detective work, in 2002.


THE END

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