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The BEATS TV Pilot by Legrand McMullen

The BEATS TV Pilot by Legrand McMullen

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THE BEATS

Written by Legrand McMullen

Based on the Beat Movement in America

© 2012

Legrand McMullen 117 Paloma Avenue, Apt G Venice, CA 90291 mcmullenxm@gmail.com

FADE IN: ACT ONE “IN THE SHADOW OF THE AMERICAN DREAM” INT. SEEDY URBAN BAR - NIGHT Along a crowded, dimly lit, smoke filled bar, WILLIAM BURROUGHS (20s) drunkenly perches on a stool, and props himself akimbo before a snifter of whiskey and an ashtray cradling a burning cigarette. SUPERTITLE: New York City - 1939 The bar is an off-alley gay hangout. William glances frequently toward the entrance like a nervous coyote. Picks up the cigarette, takes a long drag, then drains his glass. The BARKEEPER (30s) appears and gestures toward his empty glass. William nods, and the barkeeper deftly uncorks a bottle and tops his glass again. WILLIAM My pixie cocksucker ain’t gonna show. BARKEEPER You guys have a fight or something? WILLIAM Something. I don’t know. One minute we’re carrying on famously. Painting the town red. Then, bam! He’s cold and distant. William pulls a brochure from inside his coat pocket, lays it on the bar, and stares at it indifferently. Just then, BENNY, a YOUNG HANDSOME MAN (20s) steps up and plops on the barstool next to William. He recognizes his friend BENNY. They hug and kiss clumsily. WILLIAM (CONT’D) Benny! I was wondering if you’d remember me. BENNY Don’t be silly. I woke up late from a nap!

2. Benny is dressed nattily if a bit messy. The barkeeper asks if he wants the usual. Benny nods and lights up a cigarette. WILLIAM Then you’ve restored my faith in mankind. The barkeeper sets a glass of cold beer on the bar. Benny grabs it and toasts William. BENNY Here's to the men of all classes, Who through laddies and glasses, Will make themselves asses. The men drink heartily and the mood is cheerful. Benny notices the brochure. He picks it up and reads aloud. BENNY (CONT’D) Peacock Shoe Shop. What’s this? WILLIAM I start work there next week. BENNY Selling shoes? WILLIAM Good for the soul. BENNY And women’s shoes to boot! WILLIAM Touche. Pays commission, and I figured all the queens will come for the discount. BENNY Brilliant! Did your mother insist you find a job? Benny drains his beer and motions for a refill. Fuck her. WILLIAM

BENNY Someone did, and now you’re here. WILLIAM Extremely perceptive tonight, aren’t we.

3. BENNY Look I’m sorry. It’s been a rough few days, but I’m glad to be here, and look forward to a memorable evening. WILLIAM As always it will be memorable. William discretely reaches into his inside jacket pocket and nudges Benny to look at his hand below the bar. BENNY What are those? WILLIAM Morphine syrettes. BENNY Where’d you get them? WILLIAM Sources. Trust me, this shit will put you in dreamland. BENNY My dear William, that’s exactly where I want to go tonight. William smiles and goes for a slobbery kiss. Suddenly, another MAN (40s) pushes between Benny and William, thwarts the kiss, and drops a five dollar bill on the bar. MAN Martini please. And whatever these two gentlemen are drinking. Benny looks over his shoulder and is annoyed. The man notices and grins. William detects the mood change. The man leans in conspicuously, an unlit cigarette dangles from his lips. MAN (CONT’D) Spare a man a light? Benny ignores him and stares straight ahead. William bristles from the intrusion. The barkeeper lights the man’s cigarette. MAN (CONT’D) Fancy bumping into you two. WILLIAM Do I know you?

4. MAN I doubt it. But someone told me all about this one particular sugar daddy he knows. Actually, I’m surprised he’s here after all the nasty things he said. Funny, and I’m buying them a round. WILLIAM Then why the fuck are you here? What’s going on? Benny, you know this asshole? Benny shakes his head, and sips his beer slowly. MAN Oh really Benny, so you’re going to play deaf, dumb and blind? Let me recite a few words you used to describe your sugar daddy. Obsessive, possessive, addict. The man begins to noticeably rub Benny’s crotch, just as the man’s martini arrives. William grabs Benny’s beer and SHATTERS it against the man’s head. Beer, glass and blood flies everywhere. Bar patrons scatter. WILLIAM Motherfucker! The man HITS the floor, Benny SCREAMS, and the bartender LEAPS across the bar and GRABS William. They scuffle, and William gets DRAGGED toward the door. BARKEEPER Get out of here. And don’t come back. William staggers through the open door, looks around to see Benny kneel over the man, with a napkin covering his head wound, comforting him. Benny peers with disgust at William. CUT TO: EXT. SEEDY URBAN BAR - NIGHT William hangs his head and shuffles down the street alone. DISSOLVE TO:

5. INT. UPSCALE DINING ROOM - NIGHT HENRY WALLACE (20s) waltzes through a richly paneled doorway into a large and expensively appointed dining room. The scale and decor exudes urban conservative wealth and privilege, and the massive federal style table is set with the finest china, linens, sterling silverware and crystal. SUPERTITLE: Chicago A BLACK FEMALE MAID (30s), JINNY, carries two plates of food and sets them on the table, before Henry’s mother and father, a very handsome and neatly groomed KATHERINE (40s) and a distinguished looking WALTER (50s) in suit and tie. Katherine looks up and smiles at Henry. At the head of the table Walter ignores his food and Henry, face buried behind a Chicago Tribune, West Point class ring noticeably visible. KATHERINE Henry! So good to see you! Henry pauses and kisses his mother on the cheek, pulls a chair and sits at the table. HENRY Hi Mother, how are you? Hello Father. Walter messily folds his newspaper, tosses it on the floor, spews a cloud of smoke from his cigar, flicks an ash, then sets the cigar in an ashtray. Jinny quickly gathers up the paper. WALTER Nice of you to join us. (a beat) Don’t suppose you’re up on current events. Other than the latest gambling or drinking games. Henry unfurls his white napkin on his lap, and maintains his flippant air. Walter and Katherine stab at their food. HENRY Politics doesn’t interest me. Unless it affects the price of liquor or Cubs tickets.

6. WALTER Storm clouds are gathering in Europe. Doesn’t look good. Mark my words. HENRY Bailing out the French again? WALTER That brings me to my next point. From now on you cannot drink in the house, or bring your degenerate pals around. I’m paying the University of Chicago too much money for you to pursue your playboy lifestyle majoring in tart of the week. Of course had you gone to West Point, you wouldn’t be wasting your time on such nonsense. Jinny sets a plate of gourmet food before Henry. He ignores his father’s comment and digs in. HENRY Thank you Jinny! (a beat) First off. I earn the money I spend on my various sporting events and other hobbies. Besides, cadets wreak their own brand of debauchery, eh? WALTER Do not compare your shenanigans with my classmates! We paid our dues and fought in the Great War. Many never returned. HENRY Wouldn’t think of competing with your generation, Dad. MOTHER So how are your studies going? HENRY Fine mother, thank you. I’ve enrolled in philosophy and literature courses this term. Excellent! MOTHER

7. WALTER How about engineering? A major you can actually put to good use. HENRY Last I heard Chicago’s curriculum was top rated, no matter what the major, General. WALTER What are you going to do with a degree in whatever it is you’re getting a degree in? HENRY Learn how not to get fooled to fight another Great War like you did. What idiots engineered up trench warfare anyway? The french? Trench, french. Sounds about right. WALTER You’re the fool. You’d be speaking German had we not defeated the Kaiser and his hordes. You sure as hell wouldn’t be sitting here enjoying the best that money can buy. Katherine fumbles with a small packet of folded paper and pours its contents- white granules- into her wine. Henry maintains a robust pace on his food. She drains the glass. HENRY I was going to tell you that I won a tidy sum betting on the Cubs game last week. MOTHER That must have been fun. WALTER You run a numbers racket. Let’s be clear about that. HENRY It’s like war, father. The only way you survive is running the action, not reacting to it. KATHERINE Will you two stop bickering?

8. Walter ignores Katherine, glares at Henry, takes a large swig of wine and sucks on his cigar. WALTER A classmate of mine is visiting this evening. I’d like you to stick around and meet him. HENRY What’s the catch? WALTER He’s recruiting for the Air Corps. I want you to consider it. HENRY Really not interested. WALTER Tell you what. I’ll provide the scotch and we’ll retire to the billiard room when he gets here. HENRY Two things we agree on. Snooker? WALTER Whatever. Winner’s choice, loser racks. HENRY Under those circumstances I’ll listen to him yammer all night. WALTER Suit yourself. Henry uses a piece of bread to swab up the last bits of food off his plate, and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. Katherine stares in space, wine glass poised near her mouth. DISSOLVE TO: INT. BILLIARD ROOM - NIGHT Mid-game, Henry, Walter and MARTIN (40s) hover around a pool table set in a richly paneled room, shrouded by cigar smoke, and lit only by the lamp suspended above the green felt table top. Nearby a dozen bottles of scotch sit on a serving cart. Walter wears an ostentatious silk smoking jacket and Martin is decked out in his Army officer’s uniform.

9. Around the room hangs an array of framed pictures, certificates, commendations, paintings and a West Point diploma, celebrating Walter’s career as an Army officer. Martin lines up a shot. Walter watches and Henry chalks his cue tip. Martin strikes, balls rebound, but nothing drops. Martin sips his scotch, and Henry takes aim. WALTER Marty, you’ve lost your edge. I remember back at school you’d run the goddam table. MARTIN Your memory sucks Wally. You were the pool hustler. I always beat your ass in poker. Henry unleashes a strike and the intended ball drops in the pocket. He moves to line up his next shot. WALTER So what are you doing in Washington DC? MARTIN Working with Hap Arnold. He’s been directed by Roosevelt to double the size of the Air Corps. We’re building more birds, recruiting more pilots and setting up all the logistics to support it. WALTER Did you hear that Henry? Learn to fly and write your ticket. Henry ignores his father’s comment and sinks his next shot with finesse. Martin and Walter watch him run the table while they refill their glasses. Henry drops the eight ball for the win. He steps back. HENRY Rack ‘em. Double or nothin’? Sure. MARTIN DISSOLVE TO:

10. INT. DINGY NEW YORK WALK-UP FLAT - NIGHT William languishes drunk on his couch, morose about the events at the bar, and Benny’s affection for the man he assaulted. On the coffee table are books, bottle of whiskey, a glass, a revolver, ashtray piled with butts, pack of cigarettes and a K-bar military knife. He fishes one of the syrettes from his pocket, pops off the cap, slides the needle into arm, and squeezes the tube. He rolls his head back in relief. Moments later he begins to cry. His sadness and anger deepens. He slumps on the couch and sobs. Benny! WILLIAM

Then he rolls onto his knees and lays on the coffee table, the effects of the morphine syrette kicks in. He glares at the knife and the revolver. He picks up the revolver and slides the barrel into his mouth. Tears stream down his face. He pulls the trigger back. Abruptly he puts the gun down. He picks up the knife, splays his left hand, palm up, on the coffee table, grits his teeth and CHOPS his pinky finger OFF at the first knuckle. He convulses in shock, flings the knife down, and nearly vomits. He curls up on the floor, fist in blood and nods off. DISSOLVE TO: INT. BILLIARD ROOM - NIGHT Henry lines up the last eight ball shot for another win, and sinks it. Martin shrugs, pulls out his money clip, peels off several notes and tosses them onto the table. Walter, drunk, totters at the beverage car and refills his tumbler with whiskey. MARTIN Good shootin’ Henry. (a beat) Gotta hand it to you Wally. Taught your son well.

11. WALTER It’s one skill he’s got. Henry ignores his father’s insult and gathers the cash on the pool table. Martin walks over toward a wall in the shadow, examines the framed images, and focuses on one. MARTIN (quoting) To Wally, one wild hustlin’ son of a bitch, your friend, Robert Johnson. (a beat) Wally, I don’t recall hearing this story. Is this recent? Walter walks up to Martin. WALTER What the hell are you talking about. Henry notices them and smiles. Walter takes the cigar out of his mouth and his jaw drops. He sees a framed 8x10 photograph of blues guitarist, Robert Johnson, with the handwritten inscription Martin just read aloud. MARTIN I didn’t know you caroused with Negro minstrels. Who is this guy? Immediately, Walter turns and assaults Henry with a headlock. Enraged, he twists him and they bang on the pool table slate. WALTER C’mere you disrespectful shithead! How’d this goddam nigger get next to my West Point diploma? You know anything about this? Henry wrests from his father’s inebriated grip and forcefully pushes him. Walter flops into Martin’s arms. HENRY Get off me you fucker. Jesus Christ. MARTIN Wally, take it easy. I get the joke. Somehow Henry comes up with a cut over his brow and blood streams down his face. Martin tosses Henry a handkerchief.

12. Walter is livid and reaches for a pool stick. Henry covers his wound and leaves. WALTER Get back here you goddam idiot. I’ve had a craw full of you. Had it! Making fun of me. I won’t stand for it! You listen to me. Martin grabs Walter by the lapels. Walter shakes loose, snatches the Robert Johnson portrait off the wall and SMASHES it on the floor. MARTIN Calm down. That’s your son. Not some boot camp dog face. I’m gettin’ you to bed. CUT TO: INT. FOYER - NIGHT Jinny lifts the bloody handkerchief off Henry’s forehead. A one inch dark cut is visible, but the bleeding has stopped. JINNY You need that stitched up. What happened? HENRY Dad finally saw that Robert Johnson photo I hung up. Stupid ass. It’s been up there for months. JINNY Naturally, the night his classmate visits. HENRY He noticed and asked about it! JINNY Oh lordy, that is funny. Perfect. HENRY Next thing I know the bastard goes crazy and slams my head against the pool table. JINNY Get yourself to the doctor.

13. HENRY I’m ok Jinny. Don’t worry. Jinny hands Henry his jacket, and helps him put it on. HENRY (CONT’D) C’mon Jinny stop that. Be quiet. JINNY

Henry smiles and buttons his jacket. He pulls some folded currency from his pants pocket and shoves it into her hand. She looks at it and protests. No. JINNY (CONT’D)

HENRY Take it and you be quiet. He shoves it into her apron pocket. Henry pulls her close to him, and tenderly leans in. She lifts her gaze to meet his, and they kiss passionately, but their mouths part quickly, as if they’d be caught at any moment. They whisper. HENRY (CONT’D) This is the last straw for me. I’m bugging out of here tomorrow. Don’t say anything. JINNY What? Where you goin’? HENRY New York. One way ticket. JINNY Don’t you fool me. HENRY I’m dead serious. JINNY Just like that. What about your mother? You know your father will cut you off. HENRY I’m tired of being under his thumb. Fuck him. JINNY What about school?

14. HENRY Mostly surrounded by assholes trying to be like their daddies. JINNY Take me with you. HENRY Jinny. (a beat) You have a great life here. I got no place to stay, no plans, and don’t know anybody. JINNY I already miss you. HENRY I’ll send for you. JINNY No you won’t. HENRY New York is more open-minded than Chicago. JINNY You go on ahead and believe that. She steps to a small foyer table, pulls open a drawer, takes out a pencil and paper, scribbles something down and gives it to Henry. He looks at it and shoves it in his pocket. JINNY (CONT’D) If you get in trouble, call that number. Folks in Harlem. Tell them you know me. They stare at each other, he smiles, they kiss again quickly, he pushes through the door, looks back and is gone. DISSOLVE TO: INT. DINGY NEW YORK WALK-UP FLAT - DAY - CONTINUOUS There’s a LOUD knocking at the door. William rouses, still in the same position from the night. He raises up to an elbow, slowly looks at his bloody fist half wrapped in a bloodstained wash cloth, then at the coffee table.

15. A gristly scene- several used morphine syrettes, knife, pistol, whisky bottle, glass and the severed tip of his finger stuck in a circle of dried blood. Another LOUD knock at the door. William gets to his feet and plods to the door. WILLIAM Who’s there? CUT TO: EXT. DINGY NEW YORK WALK-UP FLAT William opens the door to his friend DAVID KAMMERER (20s). DAVID Do you know what time it is? William leaves the door open, turns and walks away. David follows him in. WILLIAM It’s mourning time. DAVID I’ve been calling. Did you not hear your phone ringing? WILLIAM Just the ringing in my ears. DAVID What happened to you? WILLIAM Minor performance art event. Starting at the bar last night. William plops on the couch and lights up a cigarette. David surveys the scene, notices the severed finger-tip and leans over for a better look. DAVID Is that what I think it is? William pours himself a whisky. David reaches to inspect his bloody fist, but he waves him off. DAVID (CONT’D) What made you do that?

16. WILLIAM Betrayal. Double-timed. Cheated. Unfaithfulness. Benny dumped me last night. I’m sorry. DAVID

WILLIAM (points to a morphine syrette) Me too. Can you please hand me one of those? DAVID You should get that looked at. WILLIAM I’ll be ok. A little hydrogen peroxide on it. Why don’t you toss that fingertip out the window. Some rat will eat it. Then a cat will eat the rat. Then the cat will shit it out in a rooftop flower box, to bloom once again. Maybe I should send it to Benny. David tosses him a syrette. William uncaps it, pushes the needle under his forearm skin, and squeezes the drug out. William smiles, sighs and tilts his head back. DAVID Does it hurt? WILLIAM Only for a lifetime. FADE OUT. END OF ACT ONE

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