(A satirical play of high camp in one act)
by Matt Janovic
Cast of Characters
Arianna Huffington: Grecian belle of the ball, radical socialite, alleged raconteur, poseur, and social climber. A Cambridge graduate (boo! bad show!), and best-selling authoress. She has a face that would launch a thousand franchise-outlets and a voice similar to Barbara Walters (the bridesmaid at her first wedding) in the 1970s.
The Decaying Ghost of Ronald Reagan (reanimated scientifically by the Republican Party for your convenience): the greatest dead president that never lived in American history.
Newt Gingrich: a pathetic excuse for a man--a politician and Republican.
Michael Huffington: a bisexual Houston oil heir, former congressman, and former husband of the leading lady. Constance was to Oscar Wilde what Michael was to Arianna.
Rahm Emanuel: Former Illinois Representative and the man closest to the President, and linguistic cousin to Richard M. Nixon, Rod Blagojevich, and potty-mouthed politicians and writers everywhere.
Author Tom Wolfe: An astute chronicler of ongoing social/political/cultural satires/catastrophes who wears Tennessee Williams-esque ice cream suits.
Actor George Clooney: a strapping Irish-American lad and icon of mainstream Democrats.
(Standing in as the Chorus) The American public, playing (with) themselves offstage, as they tend to do.
Al Franken: comedian and DNC court jester.
Chris Matthews: MSNBC political commentator and enemy of Arianna Huffington.
A Former Huffington Post staffer: [Name Redacted]
The scene: (The Huffington villa, at an undisclosed location in California. The set is what can only be described as one of the finest, most expensive examples of stagecraft the theater has ever known, you should really should have seen it, it was some choice digs, even with the break-away walls and ceilings. Indeed, Leni Riefenstahl is spinning in her grave as I write this, the spectacle being so wonderful and New Agey that I can feel it within my Shakras as I write this.
An explosion occurs, and a mandala is formed from a swirling column of smoke and the use of mirrors above the set. Newt Gingrich and Al Franken are sitting next to her; both are seated on gold-anodized lawn chairs. They’re all very clearly drunk…on alcohol and the power that comes with notoriety.)
Arianna: “Not only is it harder to be a man, it is also harder to become one,” and I should know since I’ve tried to be one all of my life. [Disembodied applause and catcalls commence from the Chorus, the voices being female with one very low male voice, laughing.] They say—whoever-the hell they are—that a “penis is a good thing to bring to a picnic”—I concur on that. Ever had to squat in the brush? Why are you here anyway, Newt? I thought we had 86’d our ties long ago. What gives?
Newt Gingrich: "I'm going to tell you something, and whether or not it's plausible given the world you come out of is your problem. I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen,” or so help me God I’ll wring your Greek neck! [He motions towards Huffington while still sitting in his chair, his hands moving towards her throat. She shoos him away with a flyswatter, smacking him in the face repeatedly, which makes the same sound as when Curly of the Three Stooges is slapped by Moe. Newt looks dumbfounded then settles back into a martini.]
Arianna: That kind of talk again. I know, I know. “I truly believed that the private sector could step up to the plate and provide the financial resources and the volunteer time to tackle poverty and all those social problems. I really did. But then I found out firsthand, through observing the Republican leadership at work, how unserious they were about addressing those issues.” [She’s shaking her head back-and-forth much as a Sicilian mother would.] How did I ever believe you cared about the poor? Oi-yoi-yoi…
Franken: [Shaking his head.] Until you fell off of that mule on the road to Damascus, hitting your head on a rock…me! I may have taken LSD at SNL, but I could never have been so high as to think that the Republicans would ever care about the poor. Frankly, it’s just the reverse: I’m high enough right now to believe that the Democrats care about the poor. I gotta split, there’s an election to contest and win. [Laughing uproariously as he exits, continuing offstage, interrupting subsequent dialog occasionally.]
Chorus: You go girl! How could she believe the Republicans would help the poor, like ever?! [Looking at directly at her, slightly out-of-unison.] What…were you stupid or something?! [Voices rising-in-unison again.] We’re talking about the Republicans here, shithead. Pf-ffft! [Resignedly] Rich people. [Grumbling] She’s worse: a social climber. Arianna was suffering from Stockholm’s syndrome.
[The Chorus walks offstage grumbling, to the left.]
Newt Gingrich: Yup, Stockholm syndrome, and I should know. [Breaking the fourth wall, he winks directly at the audience.] “You can't trust anybody with power.” [He winks the same way again.] I don’t even trust myself—you know, that whole thing with “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” especially when the left hand doesn’t want to be briefed on it without acceptable counsel. Yawp.
Yet, “[a]ll free people stand on Reagan's shoulders. His principled policies proved that free markets create wealth, that the rule of law sustains freedom, and that all people everywhere deserve the right to dream, to pursue their dreams, and to govern themselves.” [Snickers loudly, and then shrugs. Arianna looks bored.] “How to Overthrow the Government”? Been there, done that.
“I'm not a natural leader. I'm too intellectual; I'm too abstract. I think too much,” and I have a very large head. [Arianna yawns, while Gingrich begins to look nervous. His delivery accelerates accordingly, sounding similar to a hog auctioneer.]
“Frankly I believe that there's too little funding for intelligence, we have too few assets and too few analysts. And I think if the Congress and others are going to demand a greater capacity in intelligence we're going to have to be prepared to pay for a more sophisticated and a more intense structure of intelligence capabilities, and I think its wrong for some members of Congress to vote to cut intelligence spending, to vote to cut the number of intelligence analysts and then to set unrealistically high demands on the intelligence community.” [Whispers]
Do I have snot on my corduroy suit? It’s impossible to get it out. The more you rub-it-in—don’t get any ideas, woman—the worse it gets, Jesus. Out, damn spot, out!
[The Chorus returns, some smoking discourteously, others holding a hard drink.]
Chorus: Hmmmm. Is he retarded? Yes…emotionally.
Arianna: I’ve taken down bigger, fatter men than you Newt Gingrich, even with your bizarrely enormous head and girth and all your cronies and mistresses--I can do it. My namesake husband was more of a man than you—and he’s gay--making me a very curious form of social climber, but not atypical. [She looks self-consciously around with her eyes.]
But never mind all of that: You have bigger problems. “When your house is burning down, you don't worry about the remodeling…” lard ass, you hit the fat farms.
Your flabby ass is the new symbol of the end of conservatism. You look and sound like an old Soviet commissar...like that Tim Russert asshole. And how dare you—I loved Michael!
Chorus/A’murka: Who-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oah! Score! [They sing] That’s gotta hurt! Oh! Newt feels wounded.
Newt: Speak for yourself Cambridge bitch, Oxford’s the better school, even if it’s teeming with English ponces. [Pauses, confused.] What other kind of ponce would they be? German? Goddmaned--just shut-up, shut-up with that. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s character Gatsby was an “Oggsford man,” not a Cambridge one.
You know how I can tell if it’s love or lust, Lady Macbeth? I cut my finger…if I bleed and it hurts, I’m real, and therefore there is no love, simple as that. So: lust it is!
Forget sentimentality, Arianna. You know that “[w]e must create to destroy,” and that one of my favorite bands in the 1990s was Too Much Joy, not Anita Bryant. Over is over. I know, I know—they turned out to be a bunch of pinko musicians. “It's going to be a bummer if Mars turns out to be like us,” and that ain’t hay, sister. So forget all your “yadda-yaddas,” and get on with it.
You know--toots--I still don’t understand to this day why you created that anti-poverty foundation for my think tank, it was completely bat-shit crazy [He stirs his martini with his finger.]. It wasn’t sad seeing you go, but we still need your likes. When you’re a true believer, you’re a true believer, and the GOP thrives on that bullshit. You know, people who think the world’s flat.
As a Republican, you were a paradox, and as a liberal or a “lefty,” you’re the same. Being around the rich is your world, your milieu, even more than mine, yet you actually care about the poor. I’m also a social climber, but you’re the Edmund Hillary of rising above the herd, Lady Macbeth. Forget Mt. Everest, baby, you’re shooting for the top-slot, to be the “womyn” behind the curtain, the real power, the “head cheese,” the brass, the barista of braggadocio, the Grand Wazoo, the Wizard of Oz…shit!
[The sound of a singing chorus of angels begins. A giant and expansive half-shell appears above and behind Huffington and Gingrich. Inside it appears the smiling Hollywood star George Clooney. He walks down onto some invisible-stairs that lead down from the pod. Huffington begins swooning, panting, and yes, salivating uncontrollably, quite a feat for a post-menopausal woman, but she drank a lot of fluids beforehand.]
George Clooney: Hi guys. [He winks. Sustained applause ensues.] “I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it. Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi,” like it's a dirty word. But turn away from saying "I'm a liberal" and it's like you're turning away from saying that blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus, that women should be able to vote and get paid the same as a man, that McCarthy was wrong, that Vietnam was a mistake. And that Saddam Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11.
This is an incredibly polarized time (wonder how that happened?). But I find that, more and more, people are trying to find things we can agree on. And, for me, one of the things we absolutely need to agree on is the idea that we're all allowed to question authority. We have to agree that it's not unpatriotic to hold our leaders accountable and to speak out.
That's one of the things that drew me to making a film about Murrow. When you hear Murrow say, "We mustn't confuse dissent with disloyalty" and "We can't defend freedom at home by deserting it at home," it's like he's commenting on today's headlines.
The fear of being criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit, which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, "We were misled."
It makes me want to shout, "Fuck you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic."
Bottom line: it's not merely our right to question our government. It's our duty, whatever the consequences. We can't demand freedom of speech then turn around and say, ‘But please don't say bad things about us.’ You gotta be a grown-up and take your hits.
I am a liberal. Fire away. ” [Clooney walks back up the staircase, returns to the “Venus on a shell”-like pod, and vanishes dramatically, but under the production’s budget. Arianna runs to the stairs that abruptly vanish. She’s despondent.]
Newt: What the fuck was he talking about? Hey!! You didn’t really say that!
Chorus: No shit, Sherlock…well he did, but… [They moan in-unison.] Newt was right…and wrong. He did say it, except not just now. Is that clear? Forget it.
Newt: Where’d he go?
Arianna: N-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o! God, that man is catnip! [She starts sobbing.]
Newt: "You talk about crying! The spring of 1988, I spent a fair length of time trying to come to grips with who I was and the habits I had, and what they did to people that I truly loved. I really spent a period of time where, I suspect, [?!] I cried three or our times a week. I read Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them [,] and I found frightening pieces that related to...my own life."
Hey, what was the deal with you and Michael Huffington anyway? I mean, “[i]t is madness to pretend that families are anything other than heterosexual couples. I think it goes to the core of how civilization functions,” yet here you are, the biggest fag hag in the Western world preaching tolerance when you used to be one of us. What happened?! We’re both social Darwinists at heart--c’mon toots, gimme some skin, give us a kiss.
[Acerbic author Tom Wolfe enters the room, eyeing Gingrich and Huffington with disdain. At the same moment a bag of bones falls from the ceiling and crashes to the floor. The sound of a charming old man’s voice groaning is heard, then sputters-out. It’s the legacy of Ronald Reagan.]
Tom Wolfe: Arianna, have you read my book, Radical Chic? I-
Arianna: [Cutting him off like Charles Foster Kane.] I have. [They glare at one another.] Wearing that stupid ice-cream colored suit isn’t ever going to make you Tennessee Williams, unless perhaps you choked to death on a plastic bottle-cap. Are you retarded?
Wolfe: I seemed to have walked into the Algonquin. [He pauses for a painfully long time.] Nah, too easy… [He exits.]
Newt: [Sound of knocking.] Why, I think I hear a knock at the door. Who could that be?
[The door opens, and a masked figure enters the room. The unknown person is wearing a Young Republicans t-shirt.]
Arianna: Is that the pizza we ordered or the hummus platter? [She looks at him, drolly.] You know—what time is it? What day is it? I need to get something done around here. They say that procrastination is a “failed state.” I should know being a former conservative.
A Former Huffington Post staffer: M-mfhhh, mfghaghrrrrrrrrrr-gghggggnashhhaahhhhhhhhhhhmmrrrrrfff!
Newt: What the hell is he saying? Goddammit, spit it out boy! I hate this shi-hey, he’s got something in his mouth! Look! [He points his index-finger insouciantly at the staffer’s mouth. It contains a black rubber ball. It pops-out and rolls onto the floor. The staffer begins talking.] There it is….and out it goes.
Staffer: [Whining, outraged.] She called me a “retard” once and made me get her coffee and Bears tickets!
Newt: You too, huh? Welcome to the club, pal, she had me running her errands all the time, and I was her boss back then. [Gingrich takes the staffer aside.] Look, "It is perfectly American to be wrong." I reserve this right, as does Arianna…or is it areola? Excuse me, I’m getting horny just thinking about it, but maybe that’s just me. [Huffington glares at him without comment for thirty seconds.] [Depressed.] …
Yep, it’s just me. Does anyone know where I can get a good Chinese hooker? Let’s go hit Chinatown, go out kickin’ the gong around, going ha-cha-cha! [He begins dancing, badly.]
Arianna: Wrong decade, Newt, I know you pine for the 1920s, but the 1930s and the New Deal are coming anyway and there’s nothing you or your imperiled GOP can do about it. You did it to yourselves.
Newt: [Speaking to the staffer.] Listen pal, buck-up and accept the rules of the workplace like everyone else, and all that Horatio Alger crap we’re selling all the time at the GOP, all that “rags-to-riches” bullshit for the dumb-fucks, the “help.” Excuse me again… [He reaches around and scratches his ass.]
Staffer: Who the hell was Horatio Alger?
Newt: [Continuing as though the staffer never said anything.] …Everyone’s had a retarded boss who tells us to do one thing--we do it properly--and then they yell at us later for doing it because they’re fucking senile and they forgot what they originally told us. Happens all the time, mack. Regardless, I support Arianna’s right as an employer to treat you like that. God, I’ve got “ragged dick” these days, ouch, shit, sorry.
My first wife infected me with a conscience, which gives me eczema on… [Whispering in a strange drawl.] You know. I’ll never let that happen again…uh, you know, being “infected with a conscience,” never.
[Arnold Schwarzenegger enters, and don’t get any ideas from this stage direction, pervs.]
Schwarzenegger: Yoo know, I haff’ worked with many fagsz here in my time here in Cal-i-forn-ia—‘dey are not so bad…fagsz. ‘Dey do not know da’value of tearing-off a goot piece-of-assth, but dey are fery hard vorkars and can re-dec-or-ate like no one else, fucking hands-down!! [Sincerely, pleadingly, with an Austrian sense of sentimentality.] Homos are not so battt. Why da’ fuck did I want to be gov-er-nor? [He starts sobbing.]
Newt: What the hell is he talking about? At the GOP, we always say, “Until the grownups come to find us, we’ll have some fun.”
Arianna: Why are you quoting William Golding?
Newt: Who’s that?
Schwarzenegger: [As though the last exchange never occurred.] "If I would do another 'Terminator' movie I would have Terminator travel back in time and tell Arnold not to have a special election." …"It's the most difficult [decision] I've made in my entire life, except the one I made in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax."
Yooh haff made mis-takes as well, Arianna. But I am with you on this: "I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."
"Nixon was always being attacked sexually. It was always said that he was a fag and that he had no sexual relations with his wife for 15 years and that was why he liked power. And Hitler had only one ball, and that was why he wanted to conquer the world." As we know today, ‘dis hass all been found to be ‘da truth, it’s in ‘da new Kinsey Report, I read it avidly.
Arianna: Uh, let’s not talk about all that—my last marriage--shall we? This is all getting too close to home, thank you. “We need to accept that we won't always make the right decisions, that we'll screw up royally sometimes - understanding that failure is not the opposite of success; it's part of success.” I’ve made mistakes, but marrying Michael wasn’t one of them, he was my entre into the world of well-heeled West coast elites…the gay mafia.
These guys don’t “burn the saint,” they burn an image of Divine or Judy Garland! Eek! [Looks up.] Thanks—Plato—for inventing camp. My heart really yearns for Greece, it really does, but I prefer more “cosmopolitan digs.” …“Of course, at heart, I’m still a superstitious Greek peasant girl, so I’m not counting my chickens – or my lambs – yet…,” and not without prepared talking points.
Schwarzenegger: [With Germanic cunning.] You too, huh? Oh, uh…I never married Michael, but…uh…I had better shut-up now.
Schwarzenegger: And I ‘vuss never a Greek peasant girl--at least not in this life! I must go now, my head hurts. There is a state to run—I ‘tink--but I am unsure which one. [He exits.]
Newt: What a man. I’m feeling literary tonight—and why not? OK, I agree you’re not any more senile than I am, Arianna. “We're all human and we all goof. Do things that may be wrong, but do something.” Hey! We’re really not so different after all!
[Cue Keith Forsey’s very bad 1980s-instrumental music from the John Hughes movie, “The Breakfast Club.” They all get up from the lawn chairs and do an incredibly goofy dance found only in the Carpathian Alps, the Caucasus, and America. NBC political commentator and avowed enemy of Huffington walks onstage unnoticed and places wiretapping devices on Gingrich’s forehead and on Arianna’s purse. They are very large bugging-devices shaped and designed like Obama campaign buttons.]
Chris Matthews: Bitch. [He scurries offstage much like a sand crab, but not before copping-a-feel from Gingrich.] Hee-hee-hee! [Audibly grumbling within audience earshot.] At least there’s a Chris Matthews doll! [Looking squarely at Huffington, he physically punctuates every other syllable with karate-chops.] Spy…on…my…friends…for…your…pansy…husband—I’ll show you.
[Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen in the background of the stage, shaking his head sadly.]
Schwarzenegger: I have been in this state for too long. I have totally fucked-up my life.
Chris Matthews: I never liked this place either. “Keep your enemies in front of you…” that’s all I can say to you, Arnold.
Schwarzenegger: Aren’t you some kind of a pinko, some pathetic liberal talking head?
Chris Matthews: Not to my friends. “My audience is much more center right, or centrist.” Besides, I keep telling people that I saw a doll of myself in Toronto—you can’t get more mainstream than that. No, no, it’s all talk, I can assure you.
“I tell my staff, we’re riding a tour bus around, and we’re going to stop and look at some weird stuff - but we’re taking our viewers around safely. They’re just looking out the window at it. I’m trying to create a sense of comfort for my center audience.” You know, bullshit.
[Cue “Rocky Mountain Breakdown.”]
[Two rednecks come hither, sidling-up, both carrying incredibly old shotguns, one with a bandoleer and brandishing a sidearm in his hands.]
Chorus: Hee-haw! Two rednecks approach. They mean well, but have read just enough to be a problem to everyone.
Redneck #1: [To Schwarzenegger.] Hey…you ain’t from around these parts, are yeh?! Hehehehehehehaha-bleah-hahhahahahahah!!
Chris Matthews: As a matter of fact, I’m from Nicetown, Pennsylvania. Sounds better than “the man from Hope,” doesn’t it?
Schwarzenegger: …Nein, I am not from “around deese parts,” as you call it.
Redneck #2: Hey Zeke--we ain’t from around these parts neither!
[The rednecks both look at each other confused, then shrug, and leave the stage.]
Schwarzenegger: Where can a guy get a goot trink around ‘dis fucking town, because I need one. Once, there was a time when …"I was always dreaming about very powerful people - dictators and things like that. I was just always impressed by people who could be remembered for hundreds of years, or even, like Jesus, be for thousands of years remembered." Now this can never be for me, it is ovah, and I haff been made a girlie-man by the state of Cal-i-forn-ia. “Now I understand why you humans cry.”
[He lowers his head, sadly, poignantly, in a way that would make director James Cameron gush. The Hollywood sign rises in the background of the minimalist set that would make both Derek Jarman and Busbee Berkley proud. Birds are chirping, wildfires erupt to the right in the forced perspective “distance,” sirens are blaring, and the sounds of faraway gunplay and yelling are heard.]
Chris Matthews: “Greenfield Morning I Pushed an Empty Baby Carriage All Over the City”. It was one of those days, I guess.
[Meanwhile, Arianna and Newt have been paid a visit by Rahm Emanuel, the Dutch Schultz of American politics.]
Arianna: Oh! What a powerful man! Wow. [Emanuel looks pleased; he’s preening.]
Rahm Emanuel: “When people told me 'It's great to be here', they meant at the house, not with me.” …”As individuals, we will be judged in our lives by the totality of our actions. Not one thing will stand out. And I think that's how we get judged by our colleagues and that's how we get judged by the good lord.” …”I sometimes joke, [Arianna], [but] even paranoid people have enemies.
Newt: I think you’re looking at one right now…
Chorus/Arianna/Rahm Emanuel: Shut the fuck up!