S i n g l e R o o m O c c u p a n c y
Original Feature Film Screenplay by Paul Iorio
Here is a scan of the entire 130-page manuscript of
"Single Room Occupancy," published here for the first time
and available nowhere else.
This is the copyrighted version I wrote in 1995 and 1996.
There was movie industry (and HBO) interest in the
script at the time, though it was never made into a
feature film, and I'm not actively trying to sell it
The plot, which really intensifies in the last 50 pages
or so, is about the sabotage of a reformist political
candidate in Hoboken, New Jersey, and it is fiction.
Keep in mind that every word of this was written
before Thanksgiving 1996 -- many years before
"The Sopranos" was even conceived -- so you can see
how it preceded that program in terms of subject
matter (e.g., the NJ mob milieu) and characters (e.g.,
my character Diane Milano was invented and copyrighted
long before Meadow Soprano was!).
Anyway, I'm presenting it here because most people
would enjoy it. Those who read it closely will catch
some subtle plot twists. (If I were writing
this today, by the way, I just might have the main
character hit the city government of Hoboken with
Just click on a page to enlarge it.
Here's a second original screenplay by Paul Iorio.
Here's a second original screenplay by Paul Iorio:
It's a fictionalized story of a non-fiction murder case
that I solved in 1990. "60 Minutes" and "The Village Voice"
were both interested in doing a story based on my findings
at the time -- until key sources became too afraid to talk
on the record. Ultimately, with so many sources off the record,
I found the only way I could tell the tale was to create this
By the way, the screenplay is currently an inactive project
business-wise (meaning that I'm not trying to sell it anymore),
so there is of course no conflict of interest in my writing about
movies for various publications (the screenplay was written before
I reported about movies professionally).
Copyright 1995. I started writing it in 1990, initially
calling it "Number One Bullet," but wrote most of it in
'94 and '95. I also revised it in '97 and further revised
it in 2003, and that latest version is presented here.
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.
Some gig, huh?
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
This time last year the bandmembers were office temps.
Now they pack the Ritz.
Actually, a couple of 'em are still temping, I hear.
They'd be top ten, if the charts were honest.
So would R.E.M.
Speaking of which, wanna hear an advance tape of R.E.M.'s
new one? It's called "Document."
The traffic is stalled ahead in his lane, and Tony gets impatient, pulling into
the lane for oncoming traffic before rejoining his lane.
Fifth gear sure comes in handy.
Man, you coulda got us killed.
It worked, didn't it?
Sometimes I 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.
So how's the new job? Hear you're running
the charts at Big Hitz, my alma mater.
Hear the magazine's still got a great dental plan: on
your first day, they hand you a toothbrush.
One minute you're Alex the lowly researcher
and the next you're in charge of the Hot 100.
Did I miss something?
Did I miss something? My boss, that Joe Montana guy,
comes in last week real nervous and suddenly quits.
No nothing. He gave up twelve years of seniority!
Why do you think he did it?
Dunno. Maybe the pressure, the promoters.
They're always like, "Gimme a top ten."
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."
[shocked] Really? That's sure not how they
do it at Billboard or R&R.
Well, this aint Billboard. And I'm getting
tired of sending back the fifty dollar bills in his cassettes.
You mentioned it to the big boss, Sterling?
It's always, "Uh, no time."
They stop at a red light and notice the high beams of the car behind them.
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.
You gotta pen?
Here. [Alex hands him a novelty promotional pen
with a tuning fork at the end.] Keep it.
You sure that's a pen?
Yeah. A Buzzpen.
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.
So who's The Buzz?
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.
High beams again. Prick.
Tony arrives at Alex's apartment house in the west Village (on Ninth Street
off Sixth Ave.) and parks the car.
Here we are at my rent stabilized abode.
Is Susan staying at your place tonight?
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
"The Tom Jones Fever Zone"! [laughs] Where'd you get that?
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
I'll come up for a few. But only if I can
watch the Carson monologue.
You got it.
Tony turns off the ignition but the R.E.M. tape continues, now playing the
ominous "King of Birds."
Y'know, we oughta connect for Bowie at the
Meadowlands next week. I've been looking
forward to it since --
Alex is interrupted by someone with a ski mask at his window who raises a
revolver; Alex quickly rams his door into the gunman and runs for his life
down 9th St. The gunman drops his gun and is briefly knocked aside by the
car door but 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.
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 as he 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.") He screams "Alex!"
once, and the screen goes black.
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.
[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?
Yessir. How 'bout a 160?
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?
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 fly with his hand.]
[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.
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. For now, our features
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.
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?
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
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.
Can I use the phone to call his girlfriend?
Sure. On the desk there. You can have the room
[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)
INT. SUSAN ADLER'S APT. ON WASHINGTON SQUARE -- NIGHT
[Susan, with long black hair and jeans, 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? [We hear Tony from
her phone: "Sit down, Susan. There's some
SUSAN (on phone)
You sound terrible. What happened? Where's Alex?
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
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.
Stan's been waiting for you. Come in.
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 liked 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.
Glad you could come.
They both shake hands and sit down.
I hear you're investigating Alex's murder. Any idea
who did it?
Not yet. [Tony takes out his tape recorder and puts it on
his desk.] Mind if I record this?
No, go ahead.
Alex told me he had had lunch with you the day he died.
We did. He was scared that day.
Look, Tony, I want this so far off the record we're in
Okay, we're in Guam.
[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.
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.
And suppose everybody before Alex, including Joe Montana,
always took the bribes, but Alex didn't.
Who was pressuring him most?
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.
But Big Hitz and Billboard have different reporting
stations, don't they?
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.
But how do you connect the ads to any one person?
The promoter's name is listed at the bottom of the ad.
That's your man.
Alright tell me this: why would a singer pay to get on a chart
everyone knows is rigged?
'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 promoters'll pay $10-$15 thou per record.
It's that serious?
Someone's dead, aint 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,
He's fine. Still managing Custer.
I'm glad I signed Brendan back in '79 but his record
just didn't sell. We did everything we could. I
really wish him well in management. And I always tell
him, if he ever runs into any financial trouble to call
my brother Paul on Wall Street.
Thanks for your time. [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.
[Comically nervous] Are you that reporter
asking about the murder?
I'm a reporter, yeah.
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.
How do you know that?
The killer wanted to murder me instead. He mistook
Alex for me.
[incredulous] You?! Are you serious?
Yes, because I'm very outspoken, controversial.
Mr. Hoover --
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.
Oh, no! 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.
INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- DAY
Tony sits down at the rectangular table, the overhead fan spinning.
So you're investigating the murder as a freelancer.
Yeah. Wondering if you have any leads yet?
Nothing that would've caused a bloody nose much
People in certain circles say it was music-related, he was
killed because he refused bribes.
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!"
He told me that, too.
They share a laugh.
Everyone's pointing to a promo guy named Frank Buzzardi,
nicknamed The Buzz.
[turns red in the face] Who?
Buzzardi. Three completely separate sources went out
of their way to say he might be involved.
Who says that?
[Trying to change the subject.] So did you know Alex well?
Oh, yeah. Met him right after I moved to Manhattan
Tony's face is seen in a tight shot, as he flashes back in memory.
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.
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."
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.
Okay, no more daredevil stuff. I heard you chased the
guy on trial for killing his wife -- the CEO of
Palentine -- down the courthouse hallway, asking him
repeatedly whether he had found the murderer of
his wife yet.
I sure did. He always says he's looking for the killer and
denies he murdered his wife. So I simply asked whether he
had found the culprit.
He didn't answer me the first two.
I guess it wouldn't mean anything if you knew he sits on
the board of a company that was one of our biggest
No, it wouldn't.
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.
EXT. AERIAL SHOT OF MANHATTAN SKYLINE -- AFTERNOON
The dramatic opening chords of The Cars's "Bye Bye Love" 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, gradually zooming to street level on the Bowery near Bleecker
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, the Gang of
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."
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 Aint Stiff, It Aint Worth A Shit" and "Nuke the Knack" as Squeeze's "Up
the Junction" plays from a turntable.
[Initially startled] My main man!
They high five each other.
[Holds up a telephone message.] Message from Brendan
Skye, that folksinger guy.
What'd he want?
Says your glowing review landed him a record deal.
Really? With who?
Pacific Records. He was signed by Stan Tilden himself.
Might get the opening spot on the Steve Forbert tour.
Wow. Gotta call 'im.
So who's on the cover, chief?
Toss-up: the Clash or the Records. Whatdya think?
"Starry Eyes" is huge.
Yeah, but we've got a real Clash scoop: they're playing
a secret benefit for the East Village Hunger Project.
As part of their 30 nights or whatever at Bonds?
Separate. Nobody knows about it yet, not even the
Soho Weekly News. I found out through a political
source: Susan Adler.
Susan Adler? Never heard of her.
She's amazing. She approached Joe Strummer cold backstage
and convinced him to do the show for free.
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.
Hmm. I think I'm in love. [pause] Is that a
conflict-of-interest? [They laugh.]
CUT BACK TO:
INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM -- AFTERNOON
At the desk, with the overhead fan turning, Tony and the detective continue
Any other leads you can tell me about?
We're checking a witness who says she saw a male
black running from the scene.
A black male?
Yeah, a male black, which would sort of refute your
theory, right? It might just be some black guy
who did it.
[slightly angry] What do you mean, 'just some black guy'?!
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?
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.
[Popping chewing gum in his mouth and eyeing
Tony suspiciously.] Uh huh.
Tony leaves the room.
INT. BRENDAN SKYE'S WEST VILLAGE BROWNSTONE -- DINNER
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.
Am I glad to see you in one piece!
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."
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
I'm so sorry about what happened. Are you okay?
Have you seen Susan?
Not since I told her the news that night.
Geneva's been visiting her just about every other night.
Says she seems depressed.
I'm not. I'm angry. I wanna find out who did this.
Be careful. For all you know, you'll be fighting 50 thugs.
50 thugs, 50 bullets.
They'll come after you.
50 thugs, 50 bullets. Nobody's more powerful than a bullet.
You're always taking too many chances, 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.]
Well, we have some good news amidst all the tragedy. Geneva?
I'm finally pregnant.
We've tried for years. Not that I've minded the trying.
She nudges Brendan affectionately.
What are you going to name him or her?
We were thinking Alex or Alexa.
Alex, Alexa: I like that.
So you were saying on the phone you wanted to look
at some charts?
Yeah, if that's okay.
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.
My archive. Charts dating back to '53.
Do you have the Billboard and Big Hitz charts for the weeks
before and after Alex died?
I think so. Have a seat.
Brendan takes two bound volumes from the shelves; one is labeled
"Billboard," the other "Big Hitz."
[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'
Next ad reads: "DMV releases "Always," the new single: promotion by The
Buzz (Call 1-800-The Buzz)."
[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.
How'd they chart?
Tony turns to the Big Hitz masthead: "Joe Montana, Chart Director; Alex
Darrow, Research Assistant." In the same issue, he turns to the charts:
"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"
The week before Alex took over, the advertised songs
were top five. Just as I thought.
How 'bout the week after?
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.
position Artist Song
#1. DMV "Always
#2. The Pillagers "Cold Sunshine"
#3. X-Lover "Leave Me Yesterday"
#4. Tom Tim "Cisco Meltdown"
They're not even in the Top Fifty, can you believe it?
He finds the two Buzz songs near the very bottom of the charts:
#94. The Pillagers "Cold Sunshine"
#95. Bloodpool "Love Overtime"
#96. DMV "Always"
Both songs are way down at 94 and 96 the week
the pay-offs stopped.
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.
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.
Shit almighty, Tony. You've gotta go to someone
with this --
I know --
'Cause this is like really --
I know. But the cops aren't listening to me.
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.
No wonder Daley sees no evil.
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 DiSipio pulls,
but it's not nothing. Particularly if it's everything he earns.
Why would anyone pay a promoter to buy numbers on
a chart everyone knows is corrupt?
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.
Tilden says Buzzardi had a key to the Big Hitz offices and
their computer passwords even after he left the magazine.
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" is heard):
INT. BACKSTAGE AT
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
Only thing that stopped him
was the blood spurting all
over his Brioni suit and
everything. True story.
CUT BACK TO:
INT. DEN OF BRENDAN'S APARTMENT -- DINNER HOUR
Why hasn't the press exposed him?
Too smalltime. The NBC expose mostly caught the big fish.
Geneva walks in.
Bren, aren't we supposed to go to the Pointblank party?
If you want to, honey. But I've gotta be up early for NARM.
[Looks at watch] Thanks for reminding me. I'm meeting
Susan at the party. Let's connect later, okay?
Sure. And say hi to Susan.
Give her my love.
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?
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 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]
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.
Tony, you gotta meet these guys. This is Kurt, Krist and
Chad of Nirvana. I'm thinking of signin' 'em.
[to band] You guys done any records yet?
TEENAGED KURT COBAIN
[Shyly] We'll have one out next year on Sub Pop, an indie
out of Seattle. They released Green River and stuff.
THIRD PARTY TO CONVERSATION
[to band] Advice: move out of Seattle, if you wanna make it big.
Nobody but Heart ever came from Seattle.
JOLSON [to Tony]
Check this out.
Jolson shows Tony a Pointblank promotional water pistol that publicists are
passing out at the club.
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.
Look who just walked in: Sue Adler.
[waves to get her attention] Susan!
Hi Tony. How's your story going?
Lots of leads I'll tell you about later.
Wanna get together and trade notes?
How about tomorrow?
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.
It's a toy, Susan, only a toy.
Susan 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.
Tony, I just don't want to talk now, okay? To anyone
now, okay? [Tony: "Okay."]
Tony watches as the cab drives away.
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.
[pointing to the Warhol] Is that an original Warhol?
Yeah. Warhol painted my great-grandfather John Adler,
Your great-grandfather was a congressman?
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."
Probably true. [pause] By the way, sorry about
that guy last night --
Forget last night.
So you doing alright?
I miss Alex and my life the way it was. Otherwise, I'm fine.
I've even thought about seeing a shrink but don't think
so. Shrinks always seem less perceptive than me.
Didja see the new Billboard? Some guy calls the murder
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."
My sources say it was hit, too. But who ordered it? Did
Alex mention any threats?
Come to think of it, there were quasi-threatening
messages on his answering machine.
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."
Anyone threaten him explicitly?
Not really. But the messages started after Alex sent
back a $700 bribe from a promoter who calls
himself the Buzz.
Everyone mentions him. I'm even interviewing him tomorrow.
The Buzz agreed to talk?!
Actually, he's probably checking me out to see what I know.
[excited] Let's connect after. Come by after dinner.
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.
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
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.
[taking a seat] Thanks for the interview.
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."
[Noticing tuning fork pens on his desk] Interesting pens.
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,
Hey, Sammy, you gonna do that brake adjustment this weekend?
If you want.
Sammy walks from the room.
Crack mechanic, Sammy is. The best in car repair before
he came to work for me.
So how long have you been in the music business?
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.
I'm sure you've heard the accusation: some say you
might've manipulated the charts over the years.
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.]
I read in a newspaper where you were charged with payola in 1963 --
And proud of it. 'Cause payola should be legal, and
them DJs should pay to play my records, I always say.
Radio aint even good enough to play most my stuff!
There's also talk the murder of Alex Darrow was
somehow linked to chart rackets.
I don't know nothing about no murder or no chart racket
whatsoever. [Sammy brings him water, and the Buzz drinks it.]
Some have gone so far as to link the Darrow thing to you
in some way.
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."
[handling the gun] You ever shot someone with it?
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
gun-related disease, he sure will. [He takes the pistol back.]
Buzzardi gets a single bullet from a desk drawer, puts it into the revolver.
The phone rings.
[With phone in his hand] It's Daley at the Sixth.
I'll call him in five. [Turns to Tony.] Look, I'd like to talk
more, but I gotta go.
Thanks for your time. By the way, you said Daley was on
the phone. Was that Detective Daley of the Sixth Precinct?
Yeah, Daley. I known him for years. We shoot at the
range together. [picks up the phone and starts dialing.]
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.
EXT. BUZZ'S OFFICE BUILDING -- AFTERNOON
Tony walks from the building, where a police car is parked and two cops are
eyeing him suspiciously.
INT. SUSAN ADLER'S APARTMENT -- NIGHT
[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.]
Whatta thug. Sounds like some guy straight out of that book "Hit Men."
I was thinkin' that, too.
Tony pours Champagne for both of them, and they toast.
Here's to finding the guy who killed Alex.
They clink glasses and sip Champagne.
Forgot to mention it, but I found this at the crime
scene that night.
He pulls out a business card for The Steak Joint, an uptown Manhattan
Found it right next to Alex's body that night.
[looking at it curiously] Hmm.
But I checked out the place and it doesn't seem to link up
They walk out to the balcony, with flowers in pots and a view of Washington
How'd you get such a great apartment?
It's been handed down in the family for three generations.
It's like a movie set.
So you think Buzzardi was capable of killing --
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.
So you still having nightmares about that night?
Not anymore. And to tell the truth, there're some days
when I wake up invigorated because I know I wasn't
supposed to live to see this day. There's nothing like missing
a bullet to make you feel so totally alive.
Know what you mean. Fuck survivor's guilt.
We hear a Dylan lyric from the stereo: "Meanwhile life outside goes on all
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.
Same here. When I had a tan, my arms were actually
darker than Alex's.
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
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.
Lack of money can sometimes make you seem
like you can't commit.
Tony spots some unusual looking binoculars on her coffee table.
What're these? [He looks through them.] They make
everything upside down!
They're upside-down binoculars. They're a promo thing
from that band The Upside Downs.
Wow! Everything's upside down -- and close.
Is your world upside down?
[affectionately] Oh, ha ha.
He moves closer to her on the couch and puts down the binoculars.
This next thing is completely off-the-record, okay? Not
for attribution and on background.
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.
Tony, I like you a lot. But I have my own secret, which
is also completely off the record, okay?
I'm gay. Always have been.
[shocked] You're kidding?! But what about you and Alex?
Our relationship wasn't that way. Why do
you think we had separate apartments?
Never would've guessed in a million years.
The phone rings and she picks it up.
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.]
[Slightly blushing.] That was Geneva.
Look, I've gotta run. You wanna go to that thing tomorrow
at the Apollo, the Orphanheart show?
Sounds like fun. I love Sunday afternoon concerts.
Three would be fine.
Tony leaves her apartment.
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.
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."
Haven't been to the Apollo since Sly Stone didn't
show there in the Seventies.
Alex would've loved this gig.
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.
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,
From the POV of looking out the windshield, 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.) Tony sticks his head out the side window to guide the car to the shoulder.
Can't see a damned thing!
What the hell was that?
Think it's red paint.
Did you hear what he shouted?
Yeah: "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.
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.
Looks like my Fiat's bleeding.
Shit. The dress is ruined!
We can't go to the show like this. What d'ya wanna do?
Should we file a police report?
Won't do any good. I'll talk to Daley about it later.
You think Geneva and Brendan might be home?
Let's head over.
INT. BRENDAN SKYE'S APARTMENT -- EVENING
They ring the bell to Brendan's apartment and Brendan answers the door.
My god! What happened to you two?
I hope that's just paint. Come in.
It's just paint. Its mostly dry, 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
Can I get you anything?
Water would be fine.
So what happened?
Someone threw a plastic bag of red paint at us
on the FDR Drive.
Shouting something like, "Next time it'll be blood."
Geneva brings in water for everyone.
Sounds like vintage Buzzardi.
Tell me about it. But the cops won't listen to me. Cops
act like I'm a suspect.
Glad you brought that up, 'cause that's the rumor
I'm hearing, too.
[enraged] How fuckin' dare they? I'm risking my neck
to solve this and that's what I get?
Calm down. It's just they see you with Susan.
So what? We're just friends.
They don't know that.
What? They think my life is some sort of noir movie? I'm here
for their tabloid entertainment? Meanwhile I'm going broke.
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.
Need a lift to the auto shop?
I'd appreciate it.
I'll stay here with Geneva. [To Tony] Drop by my
place later tonight, okay?
Okay. After the Top of the Sixes. [To Brendan] Ready when you are.
INT. TONY'S CAR -- LATE EVENING
Tony drives Brendan uptown via Broadway.
It's Piney's Auto Repair on Morningside Heights.
I saw Stan Tilden the other day. He says hi.
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.
Says if you ever need money, call his brother Paul.
[Smiles] Wall Street Paul, huh? I might take him up on that.
[pause] You think Geneva is having an affair?
Why do you ask that?
I dunno. She's spending a lot of time away, supposedly
Tony's paint-splattered car begins making wheezing noises as it climbs hilly
Morningside Drive in Manhattan.
Hear that? Bet the paint screwed something up.
Lemme pull over.
He pulls over on Morningside Dr. where there's a hillside view of the city.
Tony jumps out, opens the hood, looks inside and comes back in the car.
Let the engine cool a minute.
They sit in the car on the hill for a couple minutes and talk.
So what else did Stan say?
[pause] He thinks the Buzz killed Alex.
But he won't go on the record, right?
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.
I just don't see a happy ending to this.
Why ya say that?
[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.
There's still time.
It's too late. It's too late.
[Looks at watch.] We'd better roll.
He drives to Piney's Auto Repair Shop and drops off Brendan.
Thanks for the ride.
Don't mention it.
[smiles] Have fun at the party. And wear something a little less red!
They both laugh mildly, and Tony drives off. A block away, Tony passes by
The Steak Joint restaurant, the same place on the business card he found at
the murder scene.
[mumbles to himself] Didn't know it was so close.
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.
[With Brooklyn accent] Your name, please?
Tony Armonica, freelance writer.
No, Armonica. I'm on the Stigma Records list.
Sorry, not here.
What do you mean? Vaccina Bayard put me on personally.
First name is Henry?
No, Tony. T-o-n-y. [Looks over at the guest list himself.]
See! There it is.
You don't have to be nasty about it.
A security guard approaches.
[To attendant] Is there a problem?
[To guard] No, I straightened him out. [To Tony] You can go in now.
Tony walks into the ballroom at 666 Fifth.
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.
[Hold up his hands in mock fright.] Don't kill me! Don't kill me!
So, Jack Worstman. What are you doing here? It's a cash bar.
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.
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?
Not on the side of the rats, I'll tell you that.
[He shoves baloney in his mouth.]
No, you're busy with the snakes.
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.
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.
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 as he walks in front of it.
INT. SUSAN'S APARTMENT -- NIGHT
Worst party I've been to in a long time. Talked to Jack Worstman.
What'd he have to say?
Still loyal to Big Hitz and Buzzardi, if you can believe it.
Gonna write up the party for Music News?
No. Assignment's canceled. My freelancing's going
down the tubes because of this thing.
Y'know, if it's causing you this much grief, maybe
you oughta consider dropping the story.
No way. I'm committed to the end.
But look what it's doing to you. You could lose
everything because of a cause.
If I don't solve it, who will?
Now you're sounding like me.
And you're sounding like me.
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
NEWS ANCHOR (on television)
The car fell 100 feet down the cliff, killing the lone occupant
whose identity is being determined at this hour.
WITNESS (on television)
[upset] He took the turn sharp and look 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.
Wonder if Brendan saw this accident up on Bear Mountain.
Susan is still making coffee.
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.
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.
Oh my god, Tony! That's Brendan's Karmann Ghia!
It is! [He puts his hands over his face and cries.]
Susan hurls her coffee mug at the TV, smashing the screen.
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
Glad you could help with the move.
Wish I could do more.
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.
I'm moving, too. Next month.
Really? Where to?
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.
Have you talked to the police about Brendan?
Just an accident, they say. And it might've been.
But the timing stinks.
So what's going to happen to you after next month?
I really don't know. I'm under a cloud till the case is solved.
Keep in touch, will you?
What follows is a series of fast forward glimpses of Tony's life through the
Nineties and the 2000s.
TITLE CARD: 1994
INT. DENTIST OFFICE -- DAY
Tony reclines in a dentist's chair and the DENTIST is looking into his mouth.
[shocked] Lord! When was the last time you saw a dentist?
Several years ago. I've been sort of broke for awhile.
The roots in a few teeth are almost gone. I can recommend
Tony's cell phone rings while he's in the chair.
Mind if I take this call?
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. I'll call later. [pause] Okay, bye.
TITLE CARD: 1997
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.
Do you speak English? I need a room for a few nights.
[in broken English] So why you here?
Why am I here? I hear it's cheaper than California.
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."
TITLE CARD: 1998
INT. CORPORATE OFFICE IN LOS ANGELES -- DAY
Tony is seated at a desk in an office and his BOSS walks by.
You're only temping for one day, so I want these letters
alphabetized and filed by five.
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.
(we hear him from the other side of the door)
[While banging on the door with a hammer] You had your
chance to pay rent! Now I'm gonna fuckin' kill you!
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.
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
"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.
Sir, you've used your fifteen minutes computer time. You'll
have to wrap up.
[Waves her away] Hold on, hold on.
He reads 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."
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.
You're back! Come in. [Tony: "Thanks."]
Susan hugs him again.
We thought we'd lost you. Last
I heard, you were in Mexico or something.
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 Geneva's plants are
In a corner are a collection of CDs and LPs, including, "The Tom Jones Fever
Geneva's still here. And Alex, her son.
Alex must be --
He'll be sixteen next month. Can you believe it?
The view's the same. [He looks out over the balcony
over Washington Square Park.] There's the arch.
Yeah but the twin towers are gone. We used to
see them from the den.
Ever see the old crowd? Like Stan Tilden?
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.
Sorry to hear that.
Geneva walks in from the bedroom wearing an Indigo Girls t-shirt, her short
hair now grey.
Tony! I can't believe it!
You look great.
A teenage kid who looks strikingly like a very young Brendan Skye comes
from the den.
Hi mom. I'm heading out to the show.
Alex, first say hello to Tony. He's an old family friend.
He'll be sixteen next month. And he's playing
guitar and sings just like Brendan.
[to Alex] So what concert you going to?
R.E.M. I'm reviewing it for my school paper.
[to Geneva] The more things change, huh?
You'd better get going, Alex.
Nice meeting you, Tony. [Tony: "Same here."]
Alex walks out the door.
We hear R.E.M.'s instrumental "Last Date" in the background.
I have some good news: I'm moving back to New York.
That new magazine Music Dateline hired me as a writer.
Great. You're welcome to stay here until
you find a place.
Did you hear the case got solved?
Oh, yeah. Buzzardi's in a cage. We were
You had it solved fifteen years ago. If only
the cops had listened to you then.
Some people have a lot of explaining to do.
Can you believe it's finally over?
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 murder on which some of this film is based. The industry now uses
the SoundScan system, which provides a more objective measure of record
The murder case on which parts of this film is based was finally solved after
13 years of detective work in 2002, with the arrest of Nashville promoter
Richard D'Antonio (aka, The Tone).