“New Years Eve”
A play in several scenes
By Johnny Culver
917 691 6884
Wendy – overweight, irritating, lacks social skills, early 20’s
Jimmy – new to NYC, spindly, frail, very nervous, early 20’s
Miss Rivas – tough Latin matron, runs the customer service office with an iron fist, mid 50’s
Ma – Wendy’s mother, bossy, a little blunt, mid 50’s
Scene One: The Customer Service Office of a small New York publishing company, It is a a damp foggy New Years Eve in the Mid 70’s
(Sits at desk, reading aloud)
"And as the clock in the town center struck midnight, Melanie discovered she could see once again. She and her father lived happily ever after, sweeping the cobblestone streets..."
(Puts down manuscript)
So, what did you think?
(Picking her nails)
Ya lost me when the she lost her glasses. She coulda got hit by a car. Or a bus.
The little girl, Melanie, .was poor and blind, living in the streets, it's part of the story. And her father was a street sweeper.
(Trying to work at her desk, sick of the chatter)
The girl should have had two pairs of the eye glasses! Did they have a bookastore in the town that Melanie did the living in?
No bookstore, this was long before bookstores and towns had a town crier to keep-
(raps on typewriter)
We sell to the bookastore, not the crying towns! What kind of town does not have the booka store? Our publishing company would not do the business with people who cry all the time-
Once I got a new pair a glasses and I hated wearing them, so I lost them on purpose. Left’em in the church bathroom. Boy was my dad ever sore at me. And I had ta move ta the front of the room so I could see the chalkboard. It was…humidifying. I cried all thru social studies.
Can we go now, Miss Rivas? It's New Years Eve!
Humiliating, Wendy. But, do you like the story? Could they be in a book? Could it be published by our company?
Your booka would not sell, Jimmy. And we would have returns and credits to issue. The bookastores would be mad at us! Nooo!
Miss Rivas, look at the time, we should close and go home! No one's gonna call us at this hour! I got a party at the VFW to get ready for! They’re gonna have live disco music. My makeup's gonna take at least an-
Jimmy, something in the story is not right. You say the funny things, but then you say the sad things. Miss Rivas doesn’t know whether to laugh out loud or use the tissue to do the crying.
Once my dad fell down the basement stairs when the lights went out. That was funny. But then he yelled at me ‘cause he found a half eaten can a chocolate frosting under my bed. That was sad.
Nooo! The chocolate frosting is for the kitchen, not under the bed! Get to work! We are here to do the Customer Services, not listen to Jimmy's stories. I have credits to issue for the returned booka.
(She starts to type madly)
There’s no work to do. Miss Rivas, Wendy is right.
I am? It's OK to keep a half eaten can of chocolate frosting under-
We should close. I have to get home. I have a-an, um, friend coming over for New Years Eve.
Friend? Jimmy, you were just complaining to me over Christmas that you don't got no friends! Geez, I thought I knew everything about you, living downstairs in our basement apartment. I hope you and your friend aren't planning on makin’ too much noise! My dad goes to bed early on New Year’s Eve.
He’s a new friend, Wendy. I just met...him...a few days ago. He’s…Chet. We’re going to maybe go to Times Square, me and...Chet-
(under his breath)
If Chet shows up.
You're having strangers over to our house on New Year’s Eve? I'm gonna open the Post tomorrow morning and see your picture on the front page...”Murdered at Midnight!” See page three, under the daily number...
Chet is a dancer…in a Broadway musical, not a murderer. He lives in Manhattan.
Whatever play he’s in, I ‘m sure it’s a killer!
(laughs at her bad joke)
Wendy Guranlick, I have a visitor out here for you. (to visitor) Excuse me, you can’t go back-
Tell them to go away. We are here to do the work, not do the entertaining.
All I want is to say hello to my little Wee-wee! Is that such a crime?
Ma! What are you doing here?
(Takes out toothbrush)
My Wee-Wee here left the house this morning without brushing her teeth. She was in such a hurry to get to work! Miss Rivas, you have one dedicated employee here. I am so proud!
That is so unhygienic.
One day, she’ll be running this department!
Nooo! The bookastore would not like it!
(Takes out dictating machine headphones)
You didn’t even brush your teeth! That’s disgusting.
Sheesh, Jimmy, I did last night, and -
I don’t keep a can a frosting under my bed any more, see?
Just a bag of candy orange slices next to her bed, on her nightstand. Much more healthy for her. All that Vitamin C.
(Hands toothbrush to Wendy)
Here you are, Wee-Wee, now go and brush away! I’ll sit right here and do your work. Not as well as you, of course.
All right, Ma. But when I get back from the ladies room, we are leaving. Miss Rivas just said I could! Right, Miss Rivas?
(Puts on dictating earphones and goes back to typing)
Jimmy, you come along with me and Wee-wee. You can take the bus back to Astoria with us. We have a little shopping to do on Steinway Street on the way…at the Revco…
(Looks over Jimmy’s desk)
Now, what can I do here? I used to be quite the filing whirlwind, back in the day…what’s this? Another one of your stories, Jimmy?
(Looks over manuscript)
Such nice typing. I didn’t know you had a typewriter down in your basement apartment. I never hear anything-
(Gathers up papers off of desk)
No! It’s nothing. I don’t have a typewriter. I, um, borrow someone else’s-
(Points to Miss Rivas typewriter)
You must get here early and use that one! Very clever of you, Jimmy. Maybe Miss Rivas would let my little Wee-Wee use the typewriter, too. Get a little practice. She is very dedicated to her job, you know. A real career girl.
(Shouts to Miss Rivas)
You must be so proud, Miss Rivas. I knew that correspondence course she took was good money, in spite what her father said. I have never heard a smart word come out of his mouth. Sass talk, but not smart talk.
(back to Jimmy)
He thought the “office assistant in 30 days” course was a waste of money and Wee-wee should have gotten a job at the Tru Value Hardware store on Steinway Street. Measuring and cutting window shades. A dead end job if you ask me. Just because he wasted his life away at the Tru Value Hardware store,, doesn’t mean my Wee-wee has to. No! I taught her to make more of herself, to think on her own, to rise above-
(Wendy enters with toothpaste on her mouth)
Wee-wee, can’t you wipe your mouth after brushing your teeth?
(Takes tissue from her pocket, spits on it and wipes Wendy’s mouth)
What kind of career girl walks down Fifth Avenue with toothpaste on her mouth?
Ma! Stop it! I can wipe my own mouth-
That’s pretty disgusting too.
Would Ann Landers walk down Fifth Avenue with toothpaste on her mouth? Would Betty Furness walk down-
(Rips off headphones)
Go! Go! Go! Leave Miss Rivas alone for the rest of the old year. Go Wendy, go Jimmy and go the mother of Wendy! Go to the Revco, go to the Tru Values, go to Fifth Avenue, and just go away!
I can stay, Miss Rivas, if you want. I can, really. I don’t need to go to Revco.
No, you go, too, Jimmy. Leave Miss Rivas to finish her credits and invoices.
Goodbye, Miss Rivas, see ya next year! I love saying that.
(Grabs coat and heads to door)
That’s was easy. Thanks Ma!
Thank you, Miss Rivas, you are too good to my little Wee-wee. Come along, Jimmy. You can use those big strong arms of yours to carry a few packages for me. We have to stop at the Revco, first. The daughter of a friend of mine works there as a cashier. Maybe you’ll like her…
(Picks at Jimmy’s arm)
Those pencil arms? Good thing we’re not buyin’ concrete blocks at the Revco. Ha! Well, I’m ready for some disco-ing.
Wendy, they don’t sell concrete blocks at Revco, so I’ll be just fine…leave my arms alone…
(They all leave)
(Take out champagne bottle and glass and pours)
Good, Miss Rivas is finally alone. Alone at last. Happy New Year!
End of Scene One.
Scene Two: The crowded, stuffy Steinway Street bus at rush hour. Jimmy sits in the middle rear seat, Wendy and Ma on either side. Jimmy has packages on his lap. Wendy drinks a bottle of Fresca thru a straw.
…I thought that cashier at the Revco was very nice, don’t you, Jimmy? Violet Galotti. I know for a fact that she is…single…and…her mother tells me that she plays the flute in her spare time. I’ve never heard her play the flute, but maybe I could invite Violet and her mother over for coffee and coffeecake and Violet could play the flute for us, and you could come upstairs and…
Ma, stop trying to fix up Jimmy. He’s a writer. He has no time for girls.
(Sips Fresca loudly)
I love Fresca. I could drink it warm…
No time for girls? Jimmy, you make time. Get your nose out of your writing. Every young man has time for girls! Except for my brother, Maurice. But that’s another story.
Mrs. Guralnick, I really don’t think that-
Fresca…I could drink it warm and flat…
You could make time for Violet Galotti and her flute playing, Jimmy. Couldn’t you? She has a good job, too. Revco pays very well. And she gets a good discount.
I don’t like that kind of music…flute music…
I love Fresca so much…I could drink it warm and flat and out of a drainage ditch…mmmm
(Reaches over and slaps Wendy on the leg)
Wee-wee! Enough talk about Fresca! Jimmy doesn’t want to hear about it. He’d rather hear about Violet Galotti.
Violet Galotti is ugly and she smells like onions. I sat behind her in homeroom for 4 years. It wasn’t fun. And I was always tripping over that stupid flute case of hers.
(the bus stops abruptly)
We’ll never get home.
(Looks out fogged window)
I’ll never be ready in time for the party at the VFW.
I’m all ready to disco!
We could just get out here and walk. It’s not too far.
Walk? With all those packages? We paid a full bus fare, Jimmy. We should get a full ride, all the way home…maybe you could go to the party at the VFW, Jimmy. A little bird told me that Violet Galotti is playing the flute for the entertainment…
Great, I’ll trip over that stupid flute case of hers while I’m disco-ing.
I have a new friend coming over tonight. We’re going to maybe go to Times Square at midnight. I’ve never been there on New Year’s Eve before. The lights and the crowds…or maybe we’ll stay in. Chet and me.
His name’s Chet, we know, we know. What kinda friend is named Chet?
(The bus jolts again)
We aren’t getting far in this traffic-
(Wipes window and looks out)
Oh, my, look, who is walking out on the sidewalk? Violet Galotti! With her flute case.
I thought I smelled onions.
(Strains to look)
Is she tripping people with her flute case? She’s just as ugly as ever.
Jimmy, give those packages to Wendy, and you get off the bus and walk with Violet. Help her with her flute case.
Ya can’t miss her; she’s the one that smells like a hot dog cart.
I really don’t think-
(Thinks a second)
-that’s a bad idea at all!
(Hands packages to Wendy and stands and squeezes thru the crowd)
Happy New Year!
(he is gone)
(Calls after him)
Watch out for the flute case, Jimmy!
(Looks out window)
What a nice couple they’ll make –
(Calls out window)
No, Jimmy, Violet is over there! The other way, you’re going the wrong way! My, that boy can run.
(The bus starts to move)
Finally, I need to get home and practice my disco-ing.
End of Scene Two.
Scene Three: Jimmy’s basement apartment. That evening. Jimmy flutters about, nervously arranging what little things he has. A scratchy show tunes record plays quietly in the background.
(to Chet who is not there)
Well come on in Chet. I hope you didn’t mind the long walk from the subway to get here. There’s a bus, but I don’t take you - Manhattanees --for the bus type.
This is my little apartment, not bad for just moving here from Ohio last summer…this is my record player, and this is where I sit and write my stories, of which I hope to have published one day. Just like I told you at the Howard Johnsons on 46th and…Broadway, I have dreams just like you, Chet, you want to be a big musical star and I want to be a famous writer!
(Points to Chet’s pants)
I see you got those mustard stains out of your pants. Sorry, bout that. I was a little nervous and careless; I never met anyone on Broadway before! Oh, Chet-
(holds out bowl of onion dip)
I hope you like-
(There is a knock at the door)
(Jimmy puts down dip and smoothes his hair and lounges goofily by the table)
(The door opens and Wendy appears, overly made up and wearing a terrible disco dress, carrying her overcoat)
Wendy! What are you doing here?
(sniffs the air)
I smell onions. Where is she? OK Violet, I know you’re here!
That’s onion dip, Wendy, why aren’t you at the VFW.
(looks at snacks on table)
Whatta spread, Jimmy! Onion Dip huh?
(heads to bowl, then stops herself)
No! I will not ruin my good breath with onion dip. I’d smell like onions and people would think I was Violet Galotti!
Violet plays the flute and works at Revco, Wendy. You don’t.
(Goes to bowl and takes a big fingerful of dip)
Mmmmm….I’ll just get a pack a Certs at the corner…and maybe a Fresca, to look slim whilst I disco……
(Wanting to get rid of Wendy)
What do you want? I’m waiting for-
Your new friend, we know. Well, Ma told me to come down here to tell ya that if your friend was coming out to Astoria from the city, if he was on-
(Tries to remember word for word)
-the Double R train, anywhere between 49th Street and Queensboro Plaza and Astoria, all Double R trains would be redirected to the Queens Boulevard express line to Jamaica Station, due to a signal malfunction in the Steinway tubes and beyond. For local service, return to Manhattan and take the Steinway Street bus or others means of transportation. Please plan your travel accordingly. More news later on WINS- – phew!
(Turns to leave)
I hope I got that right.
(Heads out of door and bangs into MA)
Ma! Well, don’t wait up; I’ll be disco-ing the night away! See ya, Jimmy!
With that onion breath, I hope she won’t be doing any slow dances! A good career girl never goes anywhere without her fresh breath.
(looks at spread of snacks on table)
Well, Jimmy, you certainly went all out for your new friend, dip, chips, Lancers wine! And I love what you’ve done with this little basement. You can hardly see the hot water heater behind that polyester blanket -
My brother Maurice is a decorator, you know, I’d bet he’d be more than happy to see what you’ve done down here. Give you a few helpful tips-
It doesn’t matter. My friend Chet isn’t going to make it out here through all those subway diversions. This New Years Eve is ruined.
(Sitting at table)
Jimmy, this reminds me of a Christmas night a long time ago. Wee-wee wanted to go to Rockefeller Center and see the Christmas tree and do a little skating. Which surprised me because she had only skated once before in her life. She was about 6 years old. Skated out on the ice. The ice broke and she went right through!
Oh no! Did she sink! How did you save her?
It wasn’t a big thing, really. She was skating on a little drainage ditch over by the Consolidated Edison plant. But so there we were, all bundled up, ready to go to Rockefeller Center and see the Christmas tree and do a little skating, when we got to the elevated platform and there was no service! Some thoughtless man had chosen that evening to jump in front of a train at our station!
I thought so, and the wife of that man thought so too. But you know who was the most upset? Wee-wee! She cried and cried, even louder than the wife of that man. So I walked her home, crying and crying through the streets of Astoria. I felt so badly for little Wee-wee.
So what happened?
I took her home, dressed her in her little Sears Roebuck footed pajamas, gave her a little cup of my special eggnog - a shot of brandy in every cup - and put her to bed. She was out cold before Red Skelton! Which I thought was a good idea because her father and I always agreed that Red Skelton was a little strange for children to be watching, especially at night. With that greasy hair and all…
What does this have to do with me?
(Goes to sink and loudly turns on water, washing his hands)
Jimmy things happen for a reason, just like tonight! Things happen to everybody! Why I was just talking to my brother Maurice on the telephone and he said that he was planning to spend a quiet New Years Eve at home with a few of his decorator friends, when, a few days ago, he was in the Howard Johnsons on 46th and Broadway, and he noticed a sad looking young man in the corner, with the worst mustard stains on his pants, of all things. Well, Maurice got to talking with him and he felt so badly for the young man, that he invited him to join his decorator friends for a quiet New Years Eve at home.
(Turns off water)
I didn’t hear a word of what you said, sorry.
Jimmy, things happen for a reason, just like tonight! Don’t stay at home and feel bad. Pack up your onion dip and chips and get on over to the VFW. If you are going to be alone, at least be alone with other people…even Violet Galotti!
I guess you’re right. I’ll do it!
(Starts to pack up food)
(Grabs bottle of wine)
But, Jimmy, leave that Lancers wine here. Me and Wee-wee’s father may want to do a little celebrating of our own!
End of Scene Three.
Scene Four: The dingy VFW, about 11pm. Bland disco music accompanied by flute can be heard in the background. An overhead black and white television is tuned to Times Square. Jimmy enters with shopping bags, and makes his way to the food table. A group of well dressed middle aged men stop and look at him, the n return to their conversation.
(Puts down bags)
Ugh, Wendy was right about these pencil arms. I am a weakling.
My New Year’s resolution is to start going to the YMCA!
(The men look over again, smiling. He turns away in embarrassment and unpacks his bags of food)
(Heads to the table carrying a Fresca bottle. She is a sweaty mess)
Jimmy! What are you doing –
(points at TV)
There? You’re supposed to be-
(points to floor)
Here! I mean-
(holds her head)
Sorry, all that disco ing, I’m a little dizzy headed. Maybe this is all a dream…
Hey, where’s your new friend - onion dip!
(helps him with bowl)
I’ll tell you later. They got a nice turnout here for their New Years Eve party. I’m impressed.
It’s not so bad. And, I am sorry to say that Violet Galotti plays a pretty mean flute version of “Love to Love You, Baby”.
(stretches and moans)
But, seventeen minutes writhing on that wooden floor there, Jimmy. My back is killing me. How did Donna Summers do it?
(The men look at her)
Who are those men, Wendy? They look as out of place as I feel. And it’s Summer. No last S.
(Disinterested, poking through food)
Them? That’s just my Uncle Maurice and his decorator friends. He said they were supposed to get together with some guy, but they got stood up. So they hopped on the bus and came out here! They brought Andre Duck champagne, too.
(Chugs the last of her Fresca and wipes her face, hands bottle to Jimmy)
Well, back to the floor, Jimmy. Violet promised to play “Do the Hustle” next! Happy New Year!
((She hustles off, as, after a beat, a tipsy Miss Rivas hustles on from the other direction, carrying a champagne glass)
Jimmy from the publishing company customer service office!
(She hangs on Jimmy)
Miss Rivas! What are you doing here?
Where is the Miss Rivas? Ohhh! Miss Rivas was sitting at in the apartment of Miss Rivas, when Miss Rivas remembered that song…
(to the tune of Cabaret)
”what good is doing the sitting alone in Miss Rivas’ room, come hear the music do the playing,
(hums loudly off key)
-Go to the booka-store!
(The men look at her, she waves back)
Then Miss Rivas remembered that all the booka-stores are closed on New Year’s Eve, so Miss Rivas came all the way out to Astoria to the VFW!
You took the bus, too? Gee, I thought that all you - Manhattanees –aren’t the bus types.
Nooooo! Miss Rivas did not do that taking of the bus. Miss Rivas took the taxicabs!
(calls to Wendy)
Wait Miss Wendy! Miss Rivas will do the hustling with you!
(She starts to stagger off, then stops and turns backs to Jimmy)
Jimmy, a little advice from Miss Rivas. Do not do the writing of blind Melanie sweeping the cobbler streets with the father in the crying town, do the writing of something you know…and people you love. Write about the New Years Eve!
(She gives Jimmy a sloppy kiss on the cheek)
Happy New Years Jimmy!
(She hustles off, singing to the tune of “If I Were a Rich Man”)
If I were a booka-store…
(Stands at center with Fresca bottle in one hand and champagne glass in the other)
Thanks, Miss Rivas. I just think I will.
(A mirror ball appears above and the disco flute music swells as the men head over towards Jimmy)