Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Pete Kelly's Blues
Show: "Vita Brand / The Shy Woman"
Date: Aug 29 1951

ANNCR:

This one's about Pete Kelly.

Sad cornet music.

It's about the world he goes around in. It's about the big music, and the big trouble, and the big twenties. So when they ask you, tell 'em this one's about the blues. Pete Kelly's blues.

Music

Kelly:

My name's Pete Kelly. I play cornet. You'll find us at 417 Cherry Street, Kansas City, it's a standard speakeasy. Before prohibition the building housed a cleaning and dying plant. It hasn't changed much. The vats came in handy. Its still tough to get a clear gin but a lady likes the idea of a drink to match the color of her dress. The lease is owned by George Lupo. He's a flat, friendly little guy who wouldn't harm a fly. There's no money in harming flies. We start every night about ten and play til the customers get that first frightening look at each other in the early light. Lupo's working on a scheme to push the dawn back for at least one more hour. I don't think he'll make it, but I wouldn't want to risk a buck against him.

Last night everything was routine until I saw her again. We were just winding up the third set when she came in, flanked by the same deadpan gunsel. She sat alone at the same table, ordered the same drink, smoked the same Egyptian deities, Gave me that same loving look. The gunsel as usual nibbled at his drink at the bar, his eyes playing watchdog for the girl. This was the fifth night, four nights running, same girl, same gunsel, same routine. Sit for five solid hours, drink, smoke and work me over with her eyes. Reach down deep for a sigh, and leave with Dead pan right behind her.

Well, I didn't like it. I was beginning to taste salt on my tongue. We went into a finish and the girl looked once at the gunsel, he nodded and started to the stand.

JAZZY UPBEAT MUSIC ENDS. AUDIENCE CLAPS.

Kelly:

Alright. Nick, can you push it a little. It helps when we can hear the beat.

Drumbeats.

Don't audition for me, just do it, huh.

Red:

Pete.

Kelly:

Yeah Red?

Red:

That babe's here again.

Kelly:

I know, I know. Alright. What have we got up next?

Red:

You're working up a head of steam, Pete.

Kelly:

Well, She's beginning to make me feel like a roadside shrine.

Itch:

You.

Kelly:

Who?

Itch:

You.

Kelly:

Me?

Itch:

Yeah.

Kelly:

Oh. You got a request? A number you'd like us to..

Itch:

No, I got no request, but the lady, she's got a request.

Kelly:

Lady?

Itch:

What's a matter? You don't see the lady? How come you don't see the lady when she's looking right at atcha?

Kelly:

Oh, that lady. Yeah, sure, I see the lady.

Itch:

So why do you make like you don't see the lady when all the time you know the lady's looking right atcha?

Kelly:

Look friend, I'm only a poor underpaid employee in this trap. Now my contract says I'm to play music to please the patrons. I'd be very happy to do anything the lady likes to please the lady.

Itch:

So alright.

Kelly:

So what does she want me to do ?

Itch:

So she wants you to have a drink with her.

Kelly:

Sure, it'd be an honor. But I'm afraid that Mr. Lupo, he's my boss, you know, George Lupo, the proprietor, he doesn't like his employees to mingle....

Itch:

I will talk to Lupo, He'll like it.

Kelly:

Yeah, you could probably make him love it.

Itch:

C'mon.

Kelly:

I'll be right back, Red. Use some nickels (meaningly).

Red:

Right, Pete.

Itch:

Vita, this is Mr. Kelly. Mr. Kelly, this is Vita Brand.

Vita:

Sit down, Mr. Kelly.

Kelly:

Yeah. Thanks.

Itch:

All right, now Vita, you happy?

Vita:

I'm getting happier by the minute.

Itch:

Sure, you want me to go back to the bar?

Vita:

Sit here, it's more friendly. Hello, Pete (very low, sultry voice).

Kelly:

Hello, Miss Brand.

Vita:

Vita.

Kelly:

Vita.

Vita:

You like my name?

Kelly:

Sure, sure it's beautiful.

Vita:

I only just got it last week.

Kelly:

Well, take a little time to break it in, huh.

Vita:

Let me hear you say it.

Kelly:

Vita.

Vita:

Yeah, I like the way you say it. Like you mean it.

Kelly:

Yeah , I do. I never meant anything more in my life.

Vita:

That's because your sincere. I knew you were sincere, the first time I looked at you. Remember the first night I came in, sat here and looked at you?"

Kelly:

Yeah, well, I'm pretty busy up there, ya know.

Vita I aint slept a wink since that night.

Kelly Well, maybe if you go home and put your mind to it, huh?...

Vita:

It's no use, Pete, I tried, nothings any good. Nothing I can do is gonna change it.

Kelly:

Change what?

Vita:

The way I feel.

Kelly:

Sick?

Vita:

Yeah.

Kelly:

With what?

Vita:

With love.

Itch:

Poor, Vita.

Kelly:

Yeah, well, beautiful girl like you no trouble finding another man.

Vita:

I don't want another man.

Itch:

She don't want another man.

Vita:

I want you.

Itch:

That's what Vita wants. You.

Vita:

I love ya, Pete.

Kelly:

(His voice is nervous and frightened, and continues to get more so throughout the following scenes.) Yeah, sure. Well, that's the way it ought to be. Everybody love everybody else. It'd a better world.

MUSICAL CHIMES

Kelly:

Well, I got a number to do.

VIOLENCE AS ITCH SHOVES KELLY BACK IN CHAIR

Itch:

Now, you sit down. The lady is trying to tell you how much she loves you so pay attention.

Kelly:

strangled) Yeah.

Vita:

First time I saw you, Pete. Hit me like a dumdum bullet.

MUSICAL CHIMES.

Kelly:

Well, excuse me. I have to earn a buck.

Itch:

Frame it. It's the last one you'll have to earn.

Footsteps of Kelly going to stand. Pulls up a chair.

Kelly:

Alright, let's do one. What do ya got up?

Red:

Til We Meet Again.

Kelly:

Alright.

Red:

Pete? (CONVERSATION OVER MUSIC)

Kelly:

Yeah, Red?

Red:

That babe. I got the rumble on her from Lupo.

Kelly:

Yeah?

Red:

Ever hear of a citizen named Baccalides? The 'threefor' boy? Three killings for the price of two?

Kelly:

Alright Red, funnel it down, huh?

Red:

She belongs to Baccaledes. Lose her, Petey, lose her.

Kelly:

You've told me what, now tell me how!

Red:

Gunsel's heading this way again.

Kelly:

Yeah, I know. Now look, friend, I got a job to do...

Itch:

You've done it, let's go.

Kelly:

Where?

PUNCHES.

Itch:

;Now you listen, buster. This ain't a lollipop poking you in the gut. I could drop you and be out of here before you hit the floor.

Kelly:

Yeah, let's go.

Music, dramatic.

Kelly:

Well, we went outside. The Hispano out in front probably wasn't as long as it looked. We've got fairly short blocks in this part of town. Vita took the wheel, she banked low around the corner, pulled out of a half Immelman, gained a little altitude and flew blind for downtown Kansas City. Vita glanced at me from the corners of charged eyes. Its just glanced at me. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. The Hispano whipped down Main Street, lost altitude as we gained the deserted financial district and made a perfect no-point landing at the side entrance of the Grundy Bank and Savings.

Well, We went in to the bank through the family entrance. One light was burning and it hung low over the biggest dice table I ever saw in any bank. The stick man was busier than a flea on a fat lady. He called the plays and called the points and not one of the fifty torpedoes glanced at us as we climbed a short flight to an upstairs office. Two men were in the room.

Stickman uses the stick to return the dice to the player, in the game of craps.

One, a shadow dressed in dark clothes, looked through a small window onto the dice game down below. A tommygun rested easy across his knees. The other man sat behind a desk no bigger than the loading platform at Union Station. He was counting money. Neat, orderly piles of bills were stacked around him like a well-trimmed hedge.

We waited while he finished thumbing a book of fifties. He just held them up to his ear, fanned them once, made a note on a pad by his elbow. Finally he turned his swivel chair to face us. He was all chin and jaw. He leaned back, made a church steeple with his fingers, threw me a credit manager's smile, and rocked his chair gently to and fro.

Bacciledes:

Well, come in, Mr. Kelly. Sit down. You're among friends.

Kelly:

(Laughs sardonically). Yeah, thanks. (CHAIR SHOVES BACK)

Vita:

Pete, permit me to introduce you to this here gentleman here who's very fond of you.

Kelly:

Sure, everybody loves me tonight.

Vita:

Oh, he doesn't love you. Only I love you. He's merely very fond of you.

Baccalides:

I am Baccalides.

Kelly:

Yeah?

Vita:

He's too cute. Ain't he cute. Ain't he cute when he's confused?

Baccilides:

What is your confusion?

Kelly:

How much time do you have?

Baccilides:

I'm at your disposal.

Kelly:

Well, look, it runs something like this, Mr. Baccilides. I play cornet, see, at 417. I mind my own business, I try not to poke a thumb in anybody's eye. Well, I notice this young lady here sitting out front and tonight she asked me to have a drink with her. Well, naturally I'm flattered but...

Baccilides:

Yes, yes, I know all this. But what is your confusion?

Kelly:

Well, It seems that this young lady here has a, well, some kind of an idea that she sort of likes me and..."

Baccilides:

Loves you, Mr. Kelly.

Kelly:

Yeah, well, loves me like you say. Well, I don't figure myself for no Rudolph Valentino, so I get an idea that it's a rim, you know, especially since I know how you....well, how she...how both of you..

Baccilides:

Not both. One. Me. I love Vita, very much.

Vita:

Oh, darling, your sweet.

Kelly:

Yeah, that's right, for a fact, and when Vita thinks it over I'm sure...

Baccilides:

There's nothing to think over, Mr. Kelly. Vita has stopped loving me. Alright, I face it. It makes me very unhappy but I face it. Now she loves you. She wants you. I know how unhappy this can make her. I do not like for Vita to be unhappy, so me and Vita, we talk it over. We decide you will marry Vita.

Vita:

Thank you, darling. You're sweet.

Baccilides:

It's nothing, Vita. You know how I will do anything to make you happy. Anything.

Kelly:

All right, Now how about doing something to make me a little happy, huh?

Baccilides:

But I give you Vita.

Kelly:

Yeah, well I pass.

Baccilides:

You refuse?

Vita:

Oh, Pete! (Tearfully) You don't mean that!

Baccilides:

You have made Vita cry, I do not like to see Vita cry. Tell her you did not mean that.

Kelly:

Goodbye, friend, I gotta number to do at 417 and it ain't Here Comes the Bride.

Baccilides:

Itch.

Itch:

Yeah. (A PUNCH AND A FALL)

Baccilides:

Pick him up.

Itch:

On your feet!

Baccilides:

You will ask Vita to be your wife.

Kelly:

What's the next best offer? (LOTS OF PUNCHING)

Vita:

Itch, don't hurt him!

Itch:

I won't. (MORE PUNCHES)

Baccilides:

Alright, Itch, I think Mr. Kelly wants to say something.

Kelly:

dazedly) Yeah.

Baccilides:

Kelly!

Kelly:

Hm?

Baccilides:

Who am I?

Kelly:

What?

Baccilides:

You hear me?

Kelly:

Yeah, I hear ya.

Baccilides:

Whisky. (BOTTLE OPENS) Put him in that chair.

Itch:

Come on, boy.

Baccilides:

Hold his head back. (DRINK AND COUGHS).

Baccilides:

All right, he is fine now.

Kelly:

(painfully) Yeah, all I need is a few kind words.

Baccilides:

I will give them to you. Just repeat after me. Vita I love you.

Kelly:

(Monotone) Vita, I love you.

Baccilides:

(SOUND OF SLAP) Mean it.

Kelly:

(Slightly less monotone) Vita, I love you.

Vita:

Oh, Pete!

Baccilides:

Will you marry me.

Kelly:

Will you marry me.

Vita:

Oh, darling, of course I will.

Baccilides:

Congratulations, we drink to it. To the happy bride and groom. Long life.

Vita:

Long life.

Itch:

Long life.

Kelly:

Yeah.

Baccilides:

Now, here's how. Tomorrow afternoon you and Vita will marry in City Hall. Itch will be best man. Then you go on a nice long honeymoon. Drive to Canada in my Hispano which I give Vita as a wedding present.

Kelly:

Look, I got a job, here in town. 417 Cherry.

Baccilides:

Go back to that crib tell the boss you quit. Tear up your cornet!

Vita I'm loaded, Pete!

Itch:

Loaded.

Baccilides:

All Right. Here's a pound of fifties. Tomorrow morning you buy some clean clothes. Top to bottom, inside and out. You will meet Vita at City Hall. two o'clock. Here's the key to the Hispano. Take it! Now kiss Vita good night.

Kelly:

Yeah.

Vita:

Good night Angel. I'll be the happiest bride in the world.

Kelly:

Sure.

Baccalides:

And you'll be the happiest bridegroom.

Kelly:

Or the saddest stiff.

Music

Well, I left the office inside the spin of a top. The hispano stood by the curb. Sleek and calm just like nuthin had happened. Nuthin at all. I pointed for the twelfth street bridge, made the other side of the river and set a course down Boulder Road for Fat Annie's place. I tried to imagine life with Vita Brand, then I thought of six painless ways of committing suicide, and I began to feel better. Fat Annie's place was doing a fair business for the lull hours. Maggie Jackson was standing back by the piano.

Ella Fitzgerald played Maggie in the movie version of Pete Kelly's Blues

I groped my way to the bar, ordered a bromo and ammonia, and listened.

Maggie:

(black jazz singer) All right, for the wealthy gentleman from Detroit, He Needs me. All right, Ray.

Singing, over piano-

He needs me...he doesn't know it, but he needs me.

So it doesn't matter ,where he goes, to he doesn't care he knows

I'm there. He needs me. I gotta follow where he leads me. Or else, he'll never know that I need him.

Just as he needs me.

CLAPPING.

Thank you. Thank you.

Kelly:

Congratulate me, Maggie.

Maggie:

Congratulations. What for?

Kelly:

Let's get back here. I want you to be the first to know. In here.

Maggie:

Pete, who worked you over?

Kelly:

You ever hear of a nail named Vita Brand?

Maggie:

Vita? Why she don't weigh hardly enough to beat the white of an egg.

Kelly:

What do you know about her, Maggie?

Maggie:

Nothing much for sure. Only she's Baccilides' package, and that makes her a package nobody tampers with. Nobody.

Kelly:

Yeah, nobody but me.

Maggie:

Not if you love life, you don't.

Kelly:

I gotta!

Maggie:

Who says?

Kelly:

Baccalides says.

Maggie:

Petey, you all right?

Kelly:

Til tomorrow at two o'clock, yeah.

Maggie:

What's then?

Kelly:

Then's the wedding.

Maggie:

Who?

Kelly:

Mine! and Vita Brand.

Maggie:

Pete, you've gone simple for sure. You know what Baccilides will do to you?

Kelly:

Look, Maggie. I just left Baccilides, and her.

Maggie:

He catch you with her?

Kelly:

Look, that way I'm healthy. If he catches me without her I'm dead in my socks.

Maggie:

Petey, you're taking those risks to fast. Slow it down a little. Baccilides, he's just crazy about that woman. Remember Albino Artie. He once looked at Vita like Baccilides didn't buy it. That was six or seven weeks ago. You seen Albino Artie for the past six or seven weeks? No. Nobody has.

Kelly:

Well, hear this. Baccilides orders me to marry Vita at two o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Now square it for me. Why?


Maggie :

Well, Vita, what does she say about this?

Kelly:

Only that she loves me.

Maggie:

She tell that to Baccilides?

Kelly:

Right to his platinum teeth.

Maggie:

(Laughs, but not in amusement). I'm getting that feeling, Petey, like my grandmother used to get.

Kelly:

And what's it tell ya?

Maggie:

That Vita's preparing herself to be bride and a widow both in the same day.

Kelly:

Yeah. Well, I better move.

Maggie:

You do that, Pete, fast and far.

Kelly:

So long, Maggie. I will.

Maggie:

And if I were you, I wouldn't stop moving til I heard 'em speaking foreign languages.

Kelly:

(Over piano music). Well, marry Vita and I'm a dead bridegroom. Don't marry Vita I'm a dead bachelor. I decided to try to be a live fugitive. I raced the Hispano back across the river, pulled up sharp in front of 417 Cherry. The brakes never made a sound.

Lupo was pounding the cash register with both fists. He threw the usual glare at me as I pushed through to the bandstand.

PRACTICING MUSIC

Hold it down. Huh. Hold it down. Let's do this one real fine. For me. It's my last time around.

Red:

Pete?

Kelly:

Yeah, Red?

Red:

You being pushed out?

Kelly:

Its that or carried out. Now look, boys, I'm not gonna be around for a while. Little business I gotta take care of. Well, you'll hear from me, so Just keep at it right here until......Red?

Red:

Yeah, Pete?

Kelly:

In the alley, huh. (FOOTSTEPS, DOOR.)

Kelly:

Look, Red, I'm in a jam.

Red:

What can I do to help, Pete.?

Kelly:

Thanks, but nuthin. I gotta keep moving. Maybe it'll cool off in a couple of weeks, maybe not. Meantime, try to keep the boys together.

Red:

Sure.

Kelly:

Well...

Red:

Well..

Kelly:

So long, Red, take care of yourself.

Red:

Petey, need anything, a couple of bucks, a brewski(?)?

Kelly:

No, I'm fine. I'll see ya. (FOOTSTEPS, MUSIC)

Kelly:

Well, it wasn't easy, I was gonna miss the boys, I missed Red already. No, it wasn't easy. But there was only one exit. I drove around to the rooming house, raced up the stairs. All I had to take was a clean shirt, my other suit, and my book of arrangements. I'd hightail it east, just keep rolling til I ran out of road. That was the plan, until I got to my room.

She was stretched across my bed, and she looked right at me as I came in. There she was on my bed looking right at me but I was all alone. Now Vita would never be anybody's widow. She was too dead to say ''I do.'' The stocking from her left leg was where no girl's stocking oughta be, knotted tightly around her throat.

Well, I tiptoed back to the door as though she was a light sleeper, I closed the door very gently behind me and then I raced down the three flights into the street, into the Hispano, and into high speed. There was no lamming out of this one. You just don't hit the road in a car belonging to the stiff you leave behind. For such violations the law is strict. Also Baccilides.

Well, I pulled up hard in front of Sour Sammy's joint. This time the brakes cried. Barney Ricketts was sitting in his usual table in his usual state, boiled and loud. Barney's the only ex-bootlegger in the country who went broke in 1922. He says he did that to aggravate a couple of prohibition agents he hated.

Barney saw me come in, waved me over to his table.

Barney:

Ah, Pete Kelly, welcome Petey and have a drink.

Kelly:

Look, Barney, I'm up to my eyes.

Barney:

Nonsense, Petey, you haven't even opened 'em yet.

Kelly:

Ah, here we are, a drink for you and a drink for me.

Kelly:

Now, listen, Barney, I'm in trouble.

Barney:

Petey, I have suddenly become oppressed by the state of the world. Well, it's my own fault, Petey, my own fault. I make it a rule never to look in the public prints, but tonight, just listen to these few choice items.

Kelly:

Now look Barney, right now I'm a moving target for Baccilides.

Barney:

Last night's edition of the Star. Look here, Petey, September 8, 1923. Girl forced to leap from stranger's automobile. Now just remember, Petey, that the only girls who leap from stranger's automobiles are those that climb into them. And here, look here...

Kelly:

All right, Barney...

Barney:

California politicians say they are responsible for President Calvin Coolidge's success. Probably insist Petey that its in honor of their state that he's called Cal. And this, Petey, German marks quoted at 28 cents per million...

Calvin Coolidge became President on August 2, 1923, and chose not to run after 1929

Kelly:

Barney, look, there's a dead girl in my room.

Barney:

So you see, Pete, even a German millionaire, is post hard to feel like thirty cents.

Kelly:

Now look, Vita Brand, Baccilides girl, she's dead, Barney. In my room.

Barney:

Well, now ..that's most careless of you, Pete.

Kelly:

If I run its the law, Barney; if I stand still its Baccilides.

Barney:

How did you get mixed up with Vita Brand and Baccilides?

Kelly:

I don't know. I'm still in last week's fog. She wanted to marry me. Baccilides said I would or else. Why, Barney, why, if he torches for her?

Barney:

Very simple problem in human relationships, Petey. Tonight, word got out that Mugsy Brand was sprung.

Kelly:

Who's Mugsy Brand?

Barney:

Vita's father. He was sent up last year. Vita is his whole life. He tried to guard her like Lupo guards his cash register. He hates Baccilides, and If he learned that he and Vita.

Kelly:

Yeah, now its coming in to focus.

Barney:

Sometimes, Petey, you're dullwitted. Dullwitted, but stupid.

Kelly:

So Baccalides and Vita rigged it to disarm her old man. She marries me, takes the heat off Baccilidies.

Barney:

Splendid, Petey, splendid.

Kelly:

And her old man winds up throwing the knife at me. All I gotta do now is explain Vita's body in my room to Mugsy Brand.

Barney:

Precisely what Baccilides expects you to face.

Kelly:

Alright. Glue the rest of it together for me, will ya?

Barney:

Baccilides is married. He could never square himself with Vita. He got in deeper than he wanted to. He couldn't dump her because of Mugsy coming out. So, he ties her onto you. Takes her up to your room, leaves her dead on your bed.

Kelly:

How do I back out of this one, Barney?

Barney:

You know where to reach Baccilides?

Kelly:

Yeah, the Grundy bank.

Barney:

His dice games?

Kelly:

That's right.

Barney:

All right, go there. See Baccilides. Lay it on the line for him. All the way, just like we talked in here.

Kelly:

He'll cut me down.

Barney:

Might.

Kelly:

How much edge do I have?

Barney:

Not quite enough to shave with.

Kelly:

But maybe just enough to cut my throat, huh?

Barney:

It's your only chance, Pete. You're in the middle of a three way push - the law, Baccilides, and Mugsy Brand.

Kelly:

Alright, Barney. I'm counting on you on the outside.

Barney:

Don't worry, Petey, I'll be there with bells on.

Kelly:

Make sure they don't toll for me.

Music.

Kelly:

Well, I went back to the Grundy Bank and Savings. I had no trouble getting in. The game was just heating up. I stalled around the dark edges of the table for a minute and laid a few bucks on the field.

Upstairs, the light was on in the office. The boy with the big piece was still sitting at the window. I could see the head and shoulders of Bacciliedes; he was still counting money. I started slowly up the stairs, went into the room without knocking. The muscle man swung sharp, pointed the heater at my stomach. Baccilides, fast for a big man, flung out a hand and knocked the gun out of line.

Baccilides:

Hold it! Next time knock, or you pick up a lot of weight.

Kelly:

Yeah, or a silk stocking around my neck?

Baccilides:

No, for you a knife. In the fingers of the best shiv man in the country.

Kelly:

Mugsy Brand?

Baccilides:

Don't try to run, Kelly, he likes a moving target. Just go to him. Tell him his daughter is in your bed, a stocking round her throat. Tell him you don't understand any of it. He will be very sympathetic.

Kelly:

Well, that's nice, Mr. Baccilides. You set it up real nice.

Baccilides:

Smart, eh?

Kelly:

Sure, you persuade Vita to buzz it around that I'm number one. Everything fixed for her father's ears. Even get her to help you push it across by going up to my room.

Baccilides:

You tell a good story, friend. Maybe too good.

Kelly:

Oh, put that rod down, Baccilides before you drop it and break your toe.

Baccilides:

Maxie, take him downstairs. Come back alone.

Door opens.

Barney:

Petey, look out! Get down!

Baccilides:

Mugsy!

Gunshots.

Kelly:

Barney, you all right?

Barney:

Shellshocked.

Kelly:

(Grunting of dying.) Mugsy Brand?

Barney:

Yes, Pete. I knew where he was. All he heard was Baccilides.

Mugsy:

(Low, badly hurt(Kelly.

Kelly:

Yeah, Mugsy?

Mugsy:

Baccilidies. I got him?

Kelly:

He was between the guns. Not much left of him. Or his triggerman.

Mugsy:

Or me. Now listen. In my poke. Money. Take it, my kid, good burial...

Kelly:

Easy, Mugsy.

Mugsy:

She was only a kid. Maybe if she met a guy like....

Barney:

He's gone, Pete.

Kelly:

Yeah.

Barney:

What did he mean, Pete. A guy like who?

Kelly:

Who knows, Barney, who knows...