Concerned Citizen, Episode 6, Talk Show Host


[Opens with standard procession of sedans, gleaming, tailfinned, gliding over federally-funded blacktop. Then the obligatory shots of people having evenings out; Caucasians conversing in bistros with unsullied white tablecloths and deferential brown waitpeople. The opening theme, the jazz-fusion “Horehound’s Groove”, chikka-chikkaing mid-tempo and mid-range. But the familiar deadpan voice of TV’s Brock Horehound does not make its gravelly intonations. At least not until the music stops. Then the screen is black, and his words begin.]

Horehound: Good evening. This is Grant Cameron, one of the principal players in Concerned Citizen.

[Here Cameron sits, alone on a director’s chair in front of a sea of blackness, uncharacteristically dressed in a white suit, white shirt, and red necktie. One can imagine a nation gasping in shock at the abrupt about-face of this faded television icon.]

Horehound: Most of you know me as Brock Horehound. Or at least up until tonight, you did.

[Various sources have reported that Cameron received complete creative control of the type necessary for a grandstand play of this sort because of a “relationship” with the network representative who inked his deal. I fail to see how it serves anyone well to traffic in innuendo, however.]

Horehound: This…

[And here he’s teasing “is the city”, but doesn’t deliver. Instead, he smirks, pauses on a blue note of dead air. Here he is Miles turning his back on the palpitating throng before a solo. He is every showman who has transmogrified into performance, only to find the myth chafing. He becomes here a star, in ways it’s impossible for those of us who have never been stars to understand.]

Horehound: Is the final episode of Concerned Citizen. This episode did not meet with the approval of the LA Police Department, and is only being aired because of legal machinations on my part.

[Cameron’s face has descended into its trademark shakedown impassiveness, which certainly belie the feelings he has for the end of this project. To be a fallen star is akin to being a defrocked priest, a deflowered virgin, or any other person who lived for his identity and died as it was stripped from him.

And do I have to tell you how and why I speak of this from experience? Do I have to tell you how it feels to be rejected without even the courtesy of a phone call? Must I go into detail about the awful sounds of generic postcards and form notes being slid into sullen mailboxes, as seasons morph into one another and I waste my degree telemarketing, shelving books, molding fresh shit into table centerpieces?]

Horehound: And so it goes. I work within the law. I take the law and make it my own. And for one last night, this half-hour is mine. And with that in mind, enjoy the final episode of Concerned Citizen.

[Opens with standard procession of sedans, gleaming, tailfinned, gliding over federally-funded blacktop. Then the obligatory shots of people having evenings out; Caucasians conversing in bistros with unsullied white tablecloths and deferential brown waitpeople. The opening theme, the jazz-fusion “Horehound’s Groove”, chikka-chikkaing mid-tempo and mid-range as the familiar deadpan voice of TV’s Brock Horehound intones gravelly, secure in his poses as omniscient oracular figure, director, and producer of the series.]

Horehound: This is the city. This is Los Angeles, California.

[Here we get shots that invert the placid facades typical of the Civic Booster openings Cameron favored during the show’s run. A harried mother yanking a squalling toddler down the street by her hair. A businessman pouring exhausted coffee into a houseplant’s soil. There is no joy in the faces of these individuals.]

Horehound: This is the city in which millions up people live bunched up in tight cornrows of resentment.

[A lingering close shot of the houseplant absorbing toxins.]

Horehound: This is the city which has spent me like a blackened match. This is the city which courts itself and consumes itself in despair, in solitude.

[Cars lined up back to front in traffic queues, that snake at once treacherous and pivotal over a rain-slickened thoroughfare. Empty grocery shelves. A bank of department store televisions depicting a US soldier in Vietnam torching a thatched hut. ]

Horehound: This is the city in which I have loomed and labored in dark despair, in which I have made myself into seething resentment.

[ Used car lots teeming with jalopies and gimmicky flags drooping limp in a breezeless blue sky. Not a still shot, but might as well be, given that even the most casual viewer can imagine the small-time salesman desperation that gives every object on that lot a black, black heart.]

Horehound: I worked here. I carried a badge.

[A second, two seconds, of blackness and the void it represents, just after the shot cuts back to the hut, which has taken flame and ballooned into billowing clouds of smoke.]

Horehound: Wednesday, August 18th. It was miserably hot in Los Angeles, and those who say that it’s only a dry heat weren’t checking the papers to see the death tolls.

[Horehound applies a white handkerchief to his brow, daubing off sweat as he gets out of his vehicle.]

Horehound: I had one less reason to check the papers. I had been offered a weekly talk show. Local television. I had a friend at the station who felt I’d be a great choice for an issues-oriented program. This was to be my first evening, and I was running late, so I showered and dressed with alacrity.

[Horehound straightens his tie and puts his jacket over his shoulder as he strides out of his apartment. All of this seems to be one sleek, economical motion.]

Horehound: I got into my 1966 Ford Fairlane, and drove across town to the studio as fast as the traffic would allow. Despite my knowledge of the Los Angeles roadways and a usually reliable sense of the best way to circumvent gridlock at any given time, my progress was slow at best, and I made it to the studio behind schedule.

[Despite the dialogic mention of the traffic, Horehound’s domestic sedan proceeds unimpeded, in the spirit of the stock footage sedan shots from the previous five episodes. And for once, I see the repetition for what it is. An attempt to impose ritual and order on chaos, to frame, to channel meaning from the randomness of sunshower raindrops.

The sedan makes its way into an NBC affiliate parking lot, if the tawdry outsized peacock on the front of the building is any indication. Horehound chats up a security guard as he drives through the gate, then walks through a metal door with the legend TALENT grafted to its surface. A shot of Horehound traversing a corridor gives way to a pan-and-scan of a studio audience, largely applauding in reaction to a sign flashing a message that would compel such a reaction.

Yet there are pockets of resistance, clusters of malingerers whose hands don’t pitter-pat in appreciation for face time on a public affairs program hosted by a played-out cop. The grove of afroed heads up front on the left-hand side of the room. Mad faced. Eyes shielded by sunglasses; black on black on black, as if bolted into cyclical inversion.

Clusters of malingerers. Hippies toward the back, bearing signs as if at a WWE wrestling event. Long haired, Caucasoid, angst-ridden. You can tell. These will be trouble.

And I was one of them once. I was in league with them. But we weren’t, or at least most of us weren’t, so vapid, so transparent. At least not most of us, not most of the time.]

Offstage Voiceover: Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Concerned Citizen, a program hosted by retired Los Angeles policeman Brock Horehound….


Offstage Voiceover: In this new and exciting program, Mr. Horehound will take a candid look at issues affecting the city of Los Angeles.

[Here we get a shot of Horehound’s face, caught in a grimace somewhere between nerves and a flat-out smile. Certainly, the home viewer is encouraged to see this as triumph. The Concerned Citizen gets a show of the same name, and isn’t the irony just hospital-corner tidy?]

Offstage Voiceover: So, without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen….

[The applause, if it were a rain before, has become a drizzle now. It is challenging to maintain emotional reaction for a length of time sufficient to make one conscious of it. At least, that’s how it has been for me.

But this isn’t about me. This isn’t about me calling in “markers” with former colleagues, with erstwhile professors, with thesis sponsors and the like. This isn’t about me practically begging for a fair consideration. This isn’t about everyone hiring from within, or about everyone wanting a minority, or everyone wanting someone with more “ability to be a team player” and less, much less, of a checkered past.]

Offstage Voiceover: Brock Horehound!

[The applause from the hired hands on the metal risers picks up when they hear Horehound’s name, and doesn’t appreciably cease even as he limps onto the stage, favoring his left foot for some reason. He fidgets with index cards in his left palm, and comes off here like nothing so much as a citizen, as someone without a stake in maintaining order.

The applause channel is turned down on the mixer after Horehound stands at an Oak lectern in the center of the stage, concurrent with him beginning to speak into the boom mike.]

Horehound: Thank you very much. I’m pleased to be with you this evening, and hope that Concerned Citizen manages to be both interesting and informative to home and studio viewers alike.

[Note the delicious double entendre here, at once post-modern and straightforward. The irony is, of course, that only someone with the establishmentarian credentials that Grant Cameron had could have gotten this episode to air in the face of so many objections.]

Horehound: Before we get started, I want to lay down some ground rules. First of all, one person may talk at a time. You can talk after you step up to the microphone, down front and center.

[Horehound gestures to a microphone stand set up at the base of the aisle that bifurcates the two halves of the bleachers. Meanwhile, a pan and scan indicates that the hippies and the black power troupe are scowling to each other in protest at being asked to follow Horehound’s rules of order.

And here I must interject, for a moment. While I am in league with those who choose to use protest to make their opinions count vis a vis structures contemporaneous with their existence (by any means necessary, you might say), I must hasten to add that I do harbor certain quibbles. It’s important for principled protesters to understand that just because someone has certain trappings of the establishment–like my degrees and awards honoring my academic achievements–it doesn’t mean that person blessed with institutional credibility doesn’t have “street cred” or “street smarts” as well.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of my career, at least as it relates to my tenure in my most recent institution, was my inability to fully reach out to the students who needed it the most. The poetic malcontent, the fiery artist, the agent of political change! These were the ones who should have garnered the most knowledge and understanding from me, and sometimes I wonder if my efforts were limited because of the divide between “the kids” and “the man.”

I know how people look at me now. My temples, grayer by the day. My smile, once held as forthright, even dangerous, now seen as the lecherous come-ons of an old man.

Everyone told me I was foolish to move east without a signed contract. Everyone. And they were right, and now I have nothing; not those friends, not my old life, and from the looks of things, no improving prospects.]

Horehound: Some more behavioral things. Keep your language clean. Keep your voice at a conversational level. Maintain a respectful tone. And one more thing….

[A shot of one of the hippie girls, her barefeet propped on the armrests of the unoccupied seat in front of her. She reminds me of nothing so much as the women I lusted after when still a boy, these full-breasted jobs who would sit on any lap and share anyone’s weed. I knew them, I lusted after them, I rarely got farther with them than close enough to smell them.]

Horehound: Keep your feet off the furniture, sweetheart.

[The comedy bumper music as the camera dots the audience and finds cells of laughter from among the straight folks, whites and blacks in church clothes, suits and dresses with frills and frippery.]

Horehound: All right, then, I’m ready to take questions.

[Horehound’s countenance is that of a nervous Sunday father getting ready to play catch with his increasingly distant son. The shot flashes, perhaps too quickly, to a Hispanic standing at the microphone, his black eyes on level with the top of the microphone.]

Hispanic: Hey, ese. I applied for a job with the Police, but they say I can no do the job. They refused me! Hey, ain’t I good enough for them, man? Or is it because I’m not light-skinned enough? Huh, ese?

[The camera shifts to the black power troupe, pumping their fists as if cheering their bets along a track, as the figure in the center of the shot–the biggest one with the biggest Afro–mouths the words “cracker racism”.

This, sadly, is the kind of thing I was talking about above. During my sorry tenure at [University Name Withheld], I always found myself at loggerheads with students who refused to use proper English in their writing.

I was reduced, and I’m ashamed to say this, to teaching from a grammar book at times.]

Horehound: Well, sir, the Los Angeles Police Department has very strict standards for hiring and retention. In fact, only a handful of every thousand applicants to the force is accepted.

[The camera shoots Horehound from below, in an effort to make him appear taller. This was an occasional cinematographic “signature” of Grant Cameron’s work.]

Hispanic: Go on.

[The anger has been drained from his face, and he has assumed the “good minority” position so favored by Cameron in his work.]

Horehound: Another thing. Just looking at you, you’re a couple of inches too short for the position. How tall are you, sir?

[Now the Hispanic looks uncertain, broken down by the abuse of hegemonic power.]

Hispanic: I am five foot, four inches, and I’m all fire, ese. I can take care of myself!

[He balls up his fists, as if ready to take on some imaginary foe. It is all Horehound can do not to laugh in his face. Horehound clears his throat before responding, as audience shots reveal amused faces.]

Horehound: I have no doubt about your ability to take care of yourself, sir. But the Los Angeles Police Department requires its officers to be at least a few inches taller than your height. The idea is that a taller man will be less required to take care of himself, as you put it.

[And there are always requirements, unless you know someone who’s both in a position and inclined to help you. A book, an ABD, an ability to use your tongue to turn shoe leather into diamond and dry-erase boards into Moses’ tablets. If you don’t meet the requirements, as folks are wont to say, you might as well give it up. Give up what you care for the most, and wait for years to turn to decades to turn to caskets and fresh, soft earth.

The camera spotlights on audience members–the L7s, of course–smiling and nodding at Horehound’s ability to mask commonly-held prejudices under the guise of legalities. Imagine, if you will, watching the news with an addled loved one. Imagine their reaction when patrol cops roust drug dealers or small-time criminals from dilapidated shacks. The way their eyes glaze over. The way they call it safety.

Then the camera focuses on the audience’s microphone stand. A tall man, with an austere crewcut counterpointed by a full pushbroom mustache. He wears a black suit, black tie, and a white shirt. A classic look, I would guess, if not for the metal campaign buttons speckling his suit.]

Suit Wearer: Officer Horehound! I would like to start off by telling you how efficacious I believe this enterprise to be. The world needs more police involvement, and police officers, and programs for, by, and about the police.

[This line is delivered straight, in terms of vocal intonations. Less straight is the speaker’s physical mannerisms. He consults his watch after every dependent clause, creating an effect not dissimilar to Matthew Lesko on amphetamines.]

Horehound: That’s certainly one way of looking at it, sir. Do you have a more specific question?

[Horehound plays this deliberately deadpan. A natural human reaction, really. I found myself that when confronted with absurdity, I preferred to maintain decorum at all times. The ability to maintain decorum is necessary for a fruitful outcome to any endeavor.

Even one as pointless as this academic exercise I’m involved in, which means nothing, nothing at all, in terms of getting me hired. Not when my primary reference lost his Department Chairmanship for “soliciting congress with a student”. Not when all I have worked for has melted like a vinyl record left in the back window of a car on a summer’s day, and all I am left with is a lot of SASEs–because hiring committees can’t afford postage, anymore, not with all the rejection letters they send out–and conjecture.

A black day in America when hoping is tantamount to deepest folly.]

Suit Wearer: Yes, indeed! I have a specific question about the gun laws here in the City of Angels. To wit, I wanted to buy a gun with no delay whatsoever, and yet I was thwarted in my aims by some… legalities.

[The Suit Wearer has begun to chew his nails, almost coquettishly.]

Horehound: Sir, if I may interject for one brief moment…

[The face of the Suit Wearer beams with a beatific glow that few men can see. Perhaps those hardy souls of the last millenium who licked brick walls until religious visions appeared could relate to this, or maybe those Reaganites who posited the validity of ketchup as a vegetable.]

Suit Wearer: Certainly! That’s what I’m here for!

[A shot of the hippies here is interesting, as they are divided along gender lines. The women are smiling here, perhaps at our Concerned Citizen, the straw that stirs this drink, that stirs all drinks. The faces of the men are Amish-dour, impassive walls that shed no light.]

Horehound: Sir, laws delaying the purchase of guns exist to protect you. Now, I’m not saying you’re unreliable, but there are people out there who are.

[Horehound is interrupted, the efficiency of his would-be muscular monologue diffused.]

Suit Wearer: I… love a parade….

[His singing voice is an uncracked, professional-quality baritone, of the sort that results from years of vocal training.]

Horehound: Look, I appreciate the American vocal tradition as much as the next guy, but here you’re going to listen up, all right?

[The Suit Wearer nods and clams up as a somber cast shadows his features.]

Suit Wearer: I’m sorry, sir. Do go on.

[Horehound nods in his direction, confident that the tomfoolery has ceased. As any experienced classroom teacher can attest, however, those hopes are often misplaced. Situations often arise that even the most battle-tested veteran has a hard time diffusing, and I feel that one of the benefits of my commentary on this script is my ability to provide insight into these issues. In my opinion, my ability to provide cross-genre insights is a boon to this project, and I can’t help but be sure that some Department will feel that way about this work.

Others may disagree. Others always disagree, until history proves them wrong. Then they shed documents and get on the appropriate bandwagons. Always.]

Horehound: The laws exist to protect people from each other and, sometimes, from themselves.

[Horehound steps behind his lecturn and leans down toward his partner in conversations. The effect is that of a televisual grilling, a cathode lynching, of a little man in a big desk exercising unwarranted authority.

The effect, to my eyes, is not an intentional one.]

Suit Wearer: Yes! Protection, that’s what I’m interested in! You understand what so many have not, Officer.

[The Suit Wearer has turned the world on with his smile once more, directly after licking his finger and holding it in front of his face, like a candle flickering in a dark, drafty hall.]

Horehound: First of all, son, I was a Sergeant. A highly-commended one, at that. Secondly, I don’t understand. Protection? What, pray tell, do you need protection from?

[Horehound’s voice has moved beyond the “grilling” mode made famous by Cameron’s Badge and Gun series. He has affected the tones–strident, hoarse-voiced- hectoring–of a drill instructor. In this final episode of a summer replacement series, Grant Cameron has chosen to pay deliberate homage to his 1957 film Parris Island Pantywaists, in which he plays “the most hard-nosed DI in the Corps”, as the description on the back of the video box indicates.

Unsurprisingly, that was another vanity project. He produced, he directed, he starred in his first and last feature film. The studio refused the option on the next film, as Parris Island Pantywaists failed to recoup even its minimal production costs.

But we all have setbacks. Much of how they end up being regarded is in how we, or whoever ends up writing the history of events, frames them. Here Cameron made a conscious choice to frame his own history. To bring his career full-circle, answering one charge of failure with another.

The effect is dizzyingly autobiographical, and yet again I find that grudging respect is indeed summoned forth.]

Suit Wearer: I need protection from only one thing. The satelittes.

[The Suit Wearer runs his hand over the buttons on his lapel in a forlorn manner. The effect is jarring, like that of a woman who just lost her keys giving herself pleasure in the middle of a crowded parking lot.]

Horehound: The satelittes. I’m not following you here.

[Horehound’s expression is likewise jarringly inappropriate, like that of an elderly person who assumes that everyone with a foreign accent is hard of hearing.]

Suit Wearer: Don’t be a silly bird! They monitor me from on high! The buttons are to ward off radiation, to block the fact that I know their secrets. Silly bird!

[The Suit Wearer makes a flapping motion of the sort that mascots at minor league baseball games are fond of doing to engage the hayseeds in the audience.]

Horehound: I know your secret, brother. You’re pretty high and far out, aren’t you? You don’t need a gun. You need psychiatric evaluation.

[Horehound gestures to his left and stagehands appear almost instantly, to ward the Suit Wearer away from the microphone. After the hands have done their job, Horehound reaches into an interior pocket of his jacket for a handkerchief, which he dabs against his forehead.]

Horehound: These lights are killing me. Sorry… what is your question, sir?

[The camera pauses on the microphone stand, which is now framed by a sea of black. The black of a turtleneck, the black of a militant, the black on which so much depends, so much that isn’t light.]

Black Militant: Hey, honky cop! What I want to know is why your people don’t leave my people alone, with your laws and your jive!

[This is the lead militant, the tall one with the super-sized Afro bulging from his skull. A predictable confrontation.]

Horehound: Could you restate your question in the form of a question, please?

[Horehound smirks demonically here, and there are scattered titters from the audience, unseen so far in this sequence.

The studio audience is like the classroom, in the sense that the vast majority of people in either place are marks who equate random light flashing off of random metal with their own well-being. Marks who believe looking at the pretty colors, as it were, constitutes entertainment.

I am finding that a disturbingly similar tendency exists with hiring committees currently. Despite evidence overwhelmingly indicating that it is a “bad idea” to phone Department Chairs, to ask them if they have in fact “checked out” your CV, to preemptorily schedule an on-campus interview, and so forth, I have fallen into the habit of doing such things. That habit is concurrent with my recent habits: afternoon drinking; watching soaps with the sound cut low; feeling like I’ll never recover from the banality of my fate.]

Black Militant: Whitey, what I’m talking about are the beatdowns in Watts. About six cops shaking one brother down for no reason except that he “fits the description”. About a cop forcing himself on a beautiful black woman, because maybe he can “help” get her man out of San Quentin.

[The Militant is carrying the scene here, and the camera flashes to Horehound, whose face has taken on an ashen cast.]

Horehound: That’s not the way it goes down….

[The camera flashes back to the militant quickly, who, in contrast to Horehound, is standing in accordance with guidelines of proper posture.]

Black Militant: What do you know, fuzz? You ain’t there. You ain’t seen what your laws do to people. How they bend over backwards, shucking and jiving, trying to keep white cops out of their cars, their houses, their beds. You wouldn’t know a thing about that, now, would you, copper?

[The militant pauses, and Horehound daubs at his forehead with his handkerchief once more. This is not a productive exchange for the first episode of a public affairs show, to be sure.]

Horehound: I’m sorry if you’ve encountered police problems. But the Los Angeles Police Department is trying to do its job. That’s all. There might be some rogue cops–I don’t know. I’m not on the Force anymore. I’m not accountable for this.

[Horehound’s voice is weak, slurred. He is supporting himself with both hands on the lecturn. He stares downward rather than meet the gaze of his verbal assailant. Though he has recently swabbed his forehead dry, beads of perspiration have already started to appear anew.]

Black Militant: Silly cracker! Your boys do these things, and you can’t even answer for them. You ain’t no better than me. You ain’t a bit better than me!

[The Militant knocks over the microphone stand and stalks back to his seat. The stand doesn’t even rest on the ground long enough for the stagehands to return it to an upright position, as yet another person has approached the station.

A willowy blonde girl, probably 30 but still prone to carding for purchases with age requirements. A conservative, navy blue dress. A primly clutched handbag, fashioned of black leather. Black pumps of the same material.]

Willowy Blonde: Mr. Horehound? First of all, I’d like to apologize for the tone of some of the previous speakers.

[Here she smiles in the halting, heartbreaking manner of the most comely and unavailable of all reference librarians in universities across the country. the ones who smile when they see you, whose hand lingers in yours when you bid them farewell when a semester is done, when they go home to stalwart boyfriends in prefab subdivisions and you go home to a house, solitary and full of stale air. ]

Horehound: It’s America.

[One might have expected him here to add a line affirming rights to free speech and so forth. But the pause after America is pregnant with understanding of the chafing of process, of the unfairness of external critique and judgment.]

Willowy Blonde: Well, I don’t want to take too much time, but I wanted to thank you.

[Her lips are parted slightly, but enough to be suggestive.]

Horehound: Thank me? For what?

[Horehound’s ashen face is now glazed with confusion.]

Willowy Blonde: Just for the work you did. You were the officer who helped my husband a few years ago when those extortionists were hounding us. If you hadn’t put them away, our bookstore would’ve closed.

[She smiles an unconflicted smile as she reaches into her handbag.]

Horehound: That’s very nice. It’s rare that we receive gratitude on this beat.

[Horehound now is practically murmuring. His eyes flutter in a most uncharacteristic way. An elderly way, almost beyond makeup and flattering lighting.]

Willowy Blonde: I have here a book of poetry for you. A Yeats first edition. Are you familiar with him?

[She opens the book, looking for a specific poem, as Horehound can only nod.]

Willowy Blonde: It feels like the most appropriate thing for this event. The idea of things falling apart, of the center not holding. The idea of a beast being born….

[Here she pauses and looks taken aback, as if noticing Horehound’s compromised state for the first time. How his form is caving under pressures.]

Horehound: Thank you. I know all about that beast.

[Horehound lifts his head up and looks directly into the camera before leaving the stage. The commercial on the talk show is implied here, as Concerned Citizen itself fades to commercial. When the show resumes, we get an exterior shot of Horehound’s house, and then a shot of him sitting at a desk typing, lips not moving even as his voiceover begins.]

Horehound: Despite changing shirts, I was still perspiring uncontrollably. I was unable to continue the show, as my temperature was taken and revealed to be 102 and change. With that in mind, a film about water safety was shown, and the audience was thanked for coming.

[The visual footage shifts from Horehound typing in shirtsleeves to him straightening his tie in front of a bathroom mirror.]

Horehound: I felt it might be better if I arrived at the studio early for my second show. Perhaps I would be less nervous if I were relaxed. Perhaps I could perform my duties. I was about to head out the door when I heard the telephone ring.

[Scene shifts to Horehound picking up the receiver.]

Horehound: Hello?

[Horehound’s voice here is tinged with nerves. It is obvious to even the most dull-minded viewer that his Citizen posture is but a pale shadow of his Badge and Gun persona.

Then again, perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps it’s as simple as saying authority itself imbues machismo. If that is the point, I don’t see how I can argue it. Not knowing what I know, having done what I’ve done.]

Linger: It’s me, Brock. We need to talk.

[Linger’s voice here–metallic, driven by the need to project an assumption of authority–stands here as a badge for the cravenness of those who benefit from wrongful terminations and misapprehensions.]

Horehound: Shoot.

[Despite Horehound’s tone being that of someone who just washed his hair, who was headed out the door, who wanted to be anywhere but on the phone, he lit a cigarette right after saying the word. Shoot. Emblematic, given how a cigarette ember burns through the sky like a bullet, and how the purpose of both a bullet and a burning cigarette is to foment the exhaustion of resources.

It could be said simply that the “point” of this episode is to “depict a sense of exhaustion”. Then we could move on. But that’s not the point. Not in and of itself.]

Linger: The Department’s not happy.

[The Department’s not happy. As if there is this entity in which people move and think in concord. As if people aren’t driven by their own individual demons. Wants, fears, needs, compulsions.

As if the happiness of the Department can matter one whit to someone disposed of by that self-same Department.]

Horehound: The Department is never happy, Linger. They always seem to have a beef with one thing or another.

[Inhale. Flick the ashes into an decorous black ashtray on the coffee table. Inhale again.]

Linger: Well, right now they have a beef with you, son.

[Linger’s voice increases in both volume and the degree of hectoring. Horehound rests his smoke in an ashtray groove.]

Horehound: Son? You’re making promises you can’t deliver on, friend, when you talk so bold to the man who made you a cop. Who CYA’d for you when you turned tail from bullets in Watts–you remember that, boy?

[Horehound stands, but is tethered by the cord of the phone.]

Linger: The Department is not happy with your grandstanding TV show. The Department expects that you will not do tonight’s show, nor that you will do any other. The Department-

[Horehound interjects as he loosens his necktie.]

Horehound: I don’t owe the Department a single thing. You can tell that to whoever told you to make this call. See, I know you, Linger. You can’t move without backup.

[By the second sentence, Horehound’s voice has grown quiet and slow. Linger is beaten, it would seem.]

Linger: You don’t know what I’m capable of. I’m calling you as a friend, telling you what people are saying.

[Linger’s voice trembles here, in a manner not dissimilar to Horehound’s in a previous scene of this episode.]

Horehound: Oh, I know, all right. I’ve seen your work. Without a badge, without a gun, without “you have the right to remain silent”, you’re a jelly donut. You’re not even a sparring partner, glass jaw.

[Every syllable like a body blow on a meat slab.]

Linger: Buddy, keep in mind what was on those papers you signed.

[The click of disconnection. Then the straightening of the necktie, as the cigarette burns unattended in the ashtray. The lingering shot of the rich, smooth-tasting Chesterfield melds into the opening shot of the burning Vietshack, momentarily, before we shift scene again and join Horehound’s Fairlane on an expressway where a voiceover commences.]

Horehound: The unexpected phone call from Linger thwarted my plans to arrive at the studio with time to spare, even as it put certain things into perspective. The drive served as a constitutional, and for the first time in quite a while I felt awake, even alive.

[The Fairlane pulling into the studio parking lot. Horehound exiting the vehicle and walking through the TALENT door. These shots are here recycled. Directly after he walks through into the building, we get a shot of Horehound on stage, adjusting index cards at the lecturn.

We will assume that the show has started already, given that Horehound’s card-shufflig reverie is interrupted by an audience member. She is brutally, efficiently slim and pretty. Her hair blonde, but not in the safe Florence Henderson mode. More like Tippi Hedren after boosting bills from a safe. Right before the blonde starts talking, a shot of Horehound, unconsciously, licking his lips.]

Blonde: You were a former Los Angeles Police Officer, correct?

[Her tone is confrontational, in the manner of a server girl getting uppity with a customer who considers sundry liberties and considerations to be part of the “service.” Men of a certain age often elicit those reactions from women of a certain age, as I can attest from personal experience.]

Horehound: You have a firm grasp of the obvious. Have you considered ghostwriting my autobiography?

[Horehound smiles, a conscious aw-shucks affair reminiscent of Reagan tossing out grins in the 1984 Presidential debate. Not the guarded smile of confrontation that he so often hides behind, but the genuine smile of Grant Cameron himself. The man who had five marriages, all to B-List starlets who are even to this day linked to him in “tabloid accounts” of their problems with alcoholism, the failing of organs, and the inevitablity of decline.]

Blonde: There’s no need for a confrontational tone, Mister Horehound.

[Her schoolmarmish tone so obviously foreshadows darkness that Horehound has stopped licking his lips. The exchange has quickly become business, as all exchanges, as all relationships do.]

Horehound: I think I know what tone I need to use. So, go on already. Tell me what brilliant insight you want to make. Tell me about how your civil liberties were violated. Tell me how the pigs are harassers. Go on, please. But keep in mind it’s only a half hour show.

[All of this is said in the drill instructor tone elaborated on at length earlier in this episode, as Horehound loosens his tie. ]

Blonde: Perhaps you don’t remember me. I was a prostitute, not five years ago. A call girl.You helped me get out of it. You caused me to get off the junk, to get in a Junior College. And now I’ve decided. I’m going to be a police officer-

[Horehound cuts her off with a sharp, barking laugh. The Blonde looks perplexed, like a Spaniel who wakes up in a house and searches all over for her owners, but is unable to find them.]

Horehound: Lady, I don’t remember every case I’ve ever handled. No one does.

[The Spaniel nods, ponderously. The Tippi Hedren comparisons have fallen by the wayside at this point.]

Blonde: I figured you wouldn’t remember me….

[Horehound smiles, eyes twinkling.]

Horehound: But I’d like to give you some insight anyway. Don’t expect one consideration from the Force when you’re done. Expect to be made the fall guy–or gal–for politics, for need, for whatever. When you’re old, if you’re not on the inside, you’re useless. I could tell you a story, about an officer who wasn’t even present at a shooting, set up to take a fall. I could tell you my story-

[And here his mike goes dead. His lips move, then Horehound realizes he’s holding a dead stick, and tries to revive it with slaps. No dice.]

Offstage Voiceover: We are having technical difficulties. Please stand by!

[A voice ridden with malevolent cheer, even as a couple of plainclothesmen walk onto the stage. One has a memo pad out, presumably reading Horehound his rights. The other has cuffs.

Otherwise, the men are identical. Dark gray slacks. White shirts. Navy blue tie. Shoes, dress shoes, fashioned of leather. Black.]


ANTHONY GANCARSKI can be reached at:


ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at