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TABLEAUX VIVANT

 

"ART BY THE POUND"

A LIVE-TV BROADCAST VIDEO RANT

BY MARIA MANHATTAN AND BETSY NEWMAN

With Roberta Levine, Judy Whitfield and Kitty Parks

New York City, April 29, 1987

 

 

 

    OUR STORY SO FAR: 

 

 

            In a small, alternative art gallery, the current installation, "Art By the Pound," features a butcher store type display case filled with pieces of paintings cut and wrapped like pieces of meat with the prices marked with grease pencil.  Maria and Betsy, owners of the gallery, are leafing through the day's newspapers.

 

MARIA: Nothing about us in the Daily News or the Post.

 

BETSY: Or the Times or Newsday.  Maybe the Voice, our final hope.

 

MARIA: Hey!  Look, they went for it!

 

BETSY: Who?

 

MARIA: The Wall Street Journal.  I sent them a press release.  Look.

 

BETSY: Wow!  Three inches!  "A small alternative art gallery has come up with a big, mainstream idea.  It's called ĎArt by the Poundí and it's going to make it a lot easier to shop for the art you need."  Maria, It sounds like they're taking us seriously.

 

MARIA: I can't believe it.  "Ö At this tiny gallery you can buy just the right size piece of your favorite artist's work.  A great idea for investors who want to diversify and decorators who don't want to be limited to one look."  This is fantastic!

 

BETSY: Donít they know itís supposed to be a joke?  Art by the Pound Ė itís conceptual, itís ridiculous!

 

MARIA: Wait, thereís more.  ďGallery owners Maria Manhattan and Betsy Newman should be commended for an innovative approach to the art of marketing art.  They have their fingers on the cultural pulse!Ē

 

 

 

BETSY: God, ten years of struggling in the alternative gallery biz and suddenly I feel like the McDonaldís of art.

 

MARIA: Youíre right!  We can even hang out a sign that says ďOver 63 billion pounds of art sold.Ē

 

BETSY: Donít let this go to your head, Maria.  Nobodyís really going to buy it.  Iíll go check the mail.

 

 

 

She walks off.  Maria straightens the papers and off-camera the voice of Pat Buckley. 

 

PAT BUCKLEY: This must be the place.  Just double park, Leroy.  Excuse me, Miss.  I'm here to see the Art by the Pound.

 

BETSY: Sure, right this way.

 

Pat enters, followed by Betsy.

 

PAT BUCKLEY:  I read about you in the paper this morning and I ran right down, though I must say I hardly ever go this far below 57th Street.  Oh!  There it is!  Ö Fascinating!  All my favorites Ė Warhol, Haring, Öooh, Alex Katz Ė heís so sexy.

 

Maria and Betsy look at each other.

 

 

 

PAT BUCKLEY: What an ingenious idea, girls.  You've made contemporary art so accessible!  I'll hang these on my wall wrapped just like this.  Then I won't have to look at them and everybody can see what I paid!  Now this piece of Haring, it's so cheap!

 

 

 

BETSY:  Look, thatís not really Ö

 

MARIA: (Shhh!)  Um, there's a special on Haring today.

 

PAT BUCKLEY: Never mind the special.  Charge me the full price.  Punish me.

 

 

 

BETSY:  But Ö The full price?  Well, itís um Ö

 

MARIA:  $20,000 a pound.  So at half a pound, this piece is $10,000.

 

PAT BUCKLEY:  Oooh, that hurts.  OK, letís see Ė Iíll take a quarter pound of Schnabel too, and Iíll splurge on a pound of Warhol.  Thatís absolutely all.

 

MARIA:  It comes to Ö$100,000!

 

PAT BUCKLEY:  Will you take a check?

 

BETSY:  Could we see some ID?

 

PAT BUCKLEY:  Well, I Ö!  Really!  Donít you know who I am?  Donít you read?  Iím Pat Buckley!!!  You know, Mrs. William F!  Here.

 

She hands them the check.

 

PAT BUCKLEY:  God, waitíll Bill hears about this place.  Heís very tight with the purse strings, but heíll be green he didnít think up this idea himself.  Well, thanks a whole hell of a lot, girls.  Iíll pass the word uptown about your fabulous place.  Ta Ta!

 

She exits.

 

MARIA AND BETSY:  Ta Ta!

 

MARIA:  A little less blush-on, Pat.

 

BETSY:  And tone down the eye-shadow.  Itís only 11:00 am.

 

They look at the check and then at each other.  They scream and jump up and down.

 

BOTH:  $100,000 Ė I canít believe it!  Ö

 

BETSY:  Letís go to lunch!  Iíll call Hawaii 5-0.  No Cafť de Artistas!

 

MARIA:  Yeah!  No, wait.  We canít close now!  We might be on a roll.  Once Pat gets on the horn, anybody could stop by.  You know, if this thing takes off, weíll never have to write another grant proposal.

 

She is looking through the mail.

 

MARIA:  Hey, look at this Ė a letter from the White House!  Nancy must have gotten the press release.

 

BETSY:  You sent her one too?  Listen to this, itís an invitation:  ďIn acknowledgement of your continuing support for the arts, through new and creative marketing techniques, Mrs. Nancy Reagan invites you to dinner at the White House on Saturday, May 2nd ÖĒ

 

MARIA:  Short notice.

 

BETSY:  ďÖShe sincerely hopes you can make it.  God bless America, Mrs. Nancy Reagan.Ē

 

 

 

MARIA:  Amazing!

 

BETSY:  They donít get the joke.  Everyoneís taking us seriously.  Do you think we should go?

 

MARIA:  Of course, are you kidding?  Woody Allen went.  Besides, think what itíll do for business.

 

BETSY:  I guess we could think of it as research.

 

MARIA:  But what are we possibly going to wear to this thing?

 

They look at each other in despair.  Betsy notices the ďWĒ which has come in the mail.

 

BETSY:  Hey, look at this.  It was in the mail with the invitation.

 

MARIA:  ďWĒ?  Canít be for us.

 

BETSY:  Look.

 

Scrawled across the front cover in thick magic marker is:  FYI.  Love Ďn stuff, Nancy R.

 

MARIA:  What a helpful kind of gal that Nancy is!  Sheís trying to give us a hand.

 

BETSY:  ďW.Ē  It weighs a ton.  It probably costs more to print one issue of this than our entire annual budget.

 

MARIA:  ďW.Ē  Do you think it stands for whoís wearing what when and with whom?

 

BETSY:  And why?

 

MARIA:  Letís check it out.  Oh, look, an article about Nancy Kissinger!

 

BETSY:  Let me see!

 

As they read, Nancy Kissinger comes in humming a song.

 

NANCY KISSINGER:  Bon jour!

 

MARIA:  Betsy, there she is!  Itís Nancy Kissinger!

 

BETSY:  Oh, God, not another socialite.

 

MARIA:  Yep, more Republican riff-raff.  I told you Pat would spread the word.  Uh, Bon jour!

 

NANCY KISSINGER:  Oh, hello.  Gosh, I love what youíre doing here.  I saw your name on the invitation list for the arts dinner Saturday, and I thought you girls might have a problem with what to wear.  So, I brought by this bag of old things of mine.  I was on my way to the Opera Guild Thrift Shop, when I thought of you.  There are a couple of real cute dresses here Ė but I donít know Ė is either of you girls a size 5?

 

 

 

BETSY:  Not since I was five.

 

NANCY KISSINGER:  Well, never mind.  No time for a diet now.  At least you can use the accessories.  They can do wonders for a tired wardrobe.  Youíve got to look smashing for the White House.  You have no idea how lucky you are.  The White House!  Thereís no other place in the world quite like it.  And Iíll tell you a secret.

 

The girls lean in to listen.

 

 

 

NANCY KISSINGER:  My Henry and I are the ones who should be living there, instead of that grade-B cowboy and that other Nancy. 

 

 

 

NANCY KISSINGER:  Just because Henry has that little accent!  God, life is so unfair.

 

She begins to cry.  The girls try to comfort her.

 

 

 

NANCY KISSINGER:  No, no, girls.  Donít feel sorry for me.  If thereís one thing I know, itís courage.  Just remember this, girls Ė fashion is the way to get your man, and a man is the road to power, and power is the ultimate aphrodisiac!  (Laughs.)  My Henry said that!  Well, Iím late.  Got to get to the library for yet another lunch with Brook Astor.  So long, girls Ė see you on Saturday!

 

She hums her song as she leaves.

 

MARIA:  In the world of ďWĒ lunch is a very big deal.

 

BETSY:  But how do they stay so thin?

 

MARIA:  You can never be too rich or too anorexic.  What a day!  The only one who hasnít shown up yet is Ö

 

NANCY REAGAN:  (off camera) Yoo-hoo!

 

BETSY AND MARIA:  Nancy Reagan!

 

Nancy sails in a la Loretta Young.  Music:  Hail to the Chief.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  Oh, this is so much fun!  Iíll have to bring Daddy down here.  Hello, girls.  Iím just crazy about art, and this place is fabulous.

 

 

 

BETSY:  Mrs. Reagan!  What a surprise!

 

NANCY REAGAN:  Iíve heard so much about you from all my friends.  You girls are quite the buzz.  Ooh, isnít that the Duchess of Windsorís brooch?  I love success stories.

 

MARIA:  Just call us lucky, I guess.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  Luck, my dear, has little to do with it.  The American spirit is what itís all about!  Yankee ingenuity, hard work, making a buck.

 

 

 

BETSY:  I remember when it was about art.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  By the way, do you have any of those wonderful Kean paintings?  You know, the kids with the big, teary eyes?  I adore those.  I thought I could use them for my anti-drug campaign Ė as a poster, perhaps.

 

 

 

MARIA:  Afraid not, but maybe thereís something else we can show you.  We have a stable of many fine artists.  (Sound, neighing of horses.)  And of course, thereís our conceptual counter, where you can pick up some good ideas.

 

BETSY:  You might want to tell the president about that department.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  The president loves art, girls, and he has so many progressive ideas about it.  This ďArt by the PoundĒ thing is right up his alley.  Art is a business, girls.  Artists must quit relying on government funds.  America needs that money for the important things.  After all, you canít hold off the Evil Empire with a piece of canvas.

 

God Bless America is heard as Nancy goes into a trance.  Maria and Betsy whisper to each other.

 

BETSY:  Maria, I think weíve created a monster.

 

MARIA:  Yeah, weíre playing right into their hands.  They love this idea and itís starting to make me nauseous.

 

BETSY:  I think itís time to destroy our credibility.

 

 

 

They wink at each other and turn back to Nancy Reagan.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  Show me what youíre featuring, girls.  Letís go with the new!

 

BETSY:  Certainly, Mrs. R.  This month weíre featuring the work of artist Bill Wolf.

 

They wink.  As Betsy is talking Maria brings out pieces of Billís work.

 

BETSY:  Bill deals with very contemporary issues.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  Believe me, as First Lady I know about contemporary issues.  But I do hope heís not one of these artists with some kind of big opinion.  (She sees the first painting.)  Oh, my, shocking!

 

 

 

BETSY:  Yes, that is an element in Billís work, but it comes from an acute social awareness.  Now, what heís trying to say here is Ö

 

They bring out another painting.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  My God, what is that?

 

MARIA:  Oh, this is one of my personal favorites.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  This manís work should be banned!  Wasting paint on portraits of drug addicts!  Say NO to this man, girls, just say NO!  People want pretty pictures, and believe me, these wouldnít go with anybodyís couch.  I suggest you drop this artist immediately!  I know about firing people.  Itís difficult, but you just get on the phone and do it.  And I suggest you do it!

 

 

 

BETSY:  Is that a threat, Mrs. R?

 

NANCY REAGAN:  I speak in the interests of a clean, drug-free America.

 

MARIA:  You know, Iíve always wondered just what is your definition of a drug?

 

NANCY REAGAN:  What?

 

MARIA:  I mean, donít you think fashion is a drug?  Canít you just say NO to Adolfo?

 

NANCY REAGAN:  Well, I never!

 

BETSY:  And what about money and power, the most habit-forming drugs of all?

 

NANCY REAGAN:  Oh!  I should have known better that to get mixed up with the lunatic fringe!

 

She starts to leave.

 

 

 

NANCY REAGAN:  They should start giving drug tests to art dealers.  Iíll have to talk with Ed Meese about that.  Where is that invitation I sent you?

 

BETSY:  Here, take it.  And take your magazine too.

 

Nancy rips up the invitation.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  I hereby DIS-invite you!  It will be a cold day in July before you two eat dinner at the White House!

 

She storms out.

 

MARIA:  Itís OK.  I heard youíre a lousy cook.

 

Nancy sticks her head back in.

 

NANCY REAGAN:  And Iím canceling your gift subscription to ďW.Ē

 

MARIA:  No problem.

 

They tear up the magazine as Nancy goes storming out.

 

BETSY:  Maria, do you still have that check from Pat Buckley?

 

MARIA:  Yeah Ė letís cash it!

 

BETSY:  Yes, and Ö letís do lunch!

 

They join arms and exit laughing.

 

 

THE  END

 

 

*  *  *

 

            As the program ends, the camera swings around to Mariaís pop, Jimmy Scatuccio, providing the background music on his accordion.

 

 

 

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   ...NEXT:  THE "BIG DRESS" FLOAT

 

 

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