WAITING FOR AL
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(April 22, 1970, Washington, D.C., late afternoon. Five men have gathered in a large suite in the old, elegant Fairfax Hotel. They are: William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of the conservative journal, National Review; Louis Armstrong, the legendary jazz trumpeter; Rodney Dangerfield, the standup comic; Carl Sagan, a professor of Astrophysics at Cornell University; and Tommy Chong, half of the comedy team of Cheech and Chong. Sagan stands by the window admiring the view while Dangerfield paces nervously. Armstrong is lying on the couch. Chong has just returned from the bathroom. Buckley is reading a book at the dining room table.)
DANGERFIELD: Man, it's hot in here.
SAGAN: Hard to believe it's snowing right now in Ithaca.
DANGERFIELD: Then I say we go to Ithaca. Hey, Tommy, you think they have any cold ginger ale?
CHONG: I'll take a look.
(CHONG goes into the kitchen.)
ARMSTRONG: Could you get me one, too? I'd appreciate it.
DANGERFIELD: They got air conditioning in this dump?
SAGAN: They must. This is Washington. Usually by the door there's a—there we go.
ARMSTRONG: I heard the click. It's on.
DANGERFIELD: Thank you.
ARMSTRONG: It's always like this in Washington.
DANGERFIELD: Really? They should share the humidity with some of the other cities.
ARMSTRONG: Just wait until summer.
DANGERFIELD: Not me. I'm moving to Ithaca. Right, doc?
(CHONG returns from the kitchen.)
CHONG: Two ginger ales.
ARMSTRONG: Thanks. Hey, you got an opener?
CHONG: Here, give it to me.
(He removes the bottle cap with his teeth.)
DANGERFIELD: I'd hate to have his dental bills.
BUCKLEY: Did he say when he would be here?
CHONG: He didn't say, exactly. He just said "soon."
DANGERFIELD: That could be next Tuesday.
CHONG: He's pretty reliable.
SAGAN: You know, with the light this way on the Potomac it resembles the vaporous surface of Venus.
ARMSTRONG: Man, you study the stars and all that stuff, don't you, doc? That is some heavy shit, man. It spooks me, all those stars out there. Just how many stars are there?
DANGERFIELD: Billions and billions.
BUCKLEY: So, you think he might be here by dinnertime?
CHONG: Maybe. No way of knowing. What's that you're reading?
BUCKLEY: Marlowe. The only playwright of his time comparable to Shakespeare, although there is speculation that he was, in fact, the Bard.
SAGAN: I have heard that. I've also heard Francis Bacon.
ARMSTRONG: What did you say your friend's name was?
ARMSTRONG: And you're sure he's not with the cops, or the FBI?
CHONG: Hey, don't worry. His dad's a senator.
BUCKLEY: An institution of higher crime if ever there was one.
SAGAN: You know what? I think it's getting a little too cold in here. I'm going to turn the air conditioning down.
CHONG: Tell me—what do you like about smoking pot? You're not exactly the person I think of when I think of potheads, you know what I mean?
BUCKLEY: Ah, well, let's see. It relaxes, without deadening the senses. Bach on the harpsichord takes on an entirely new meaning. And listening to the great Mr. Armstrong play is positively ethereal.
ARMSTRONG: Hey, thanks man, whatever it is you said.
BUCKLEY: And if you're out sailing, and a storm rears up and you're facing twenty-foot waves off the coast of Maine—it beats Dramamine hands down.
SAGAN: You know, I have an Earth Day dinner to attend at seven. Do you think—
DANGERFIELD: Earth Day?
SAGAN: Earth Day.
DANGERFIELD: That's a new one on me.
SAGAN: Really? It's been in every newspaper, magazine, on TV—
DANGERFIELD: It wasn't in Variety.
SAGAN: Well, it's the first time that we, as temporary residents of this planet, are actually doing something on a massive scale to raise public awareness about the great dangers the earth faces if we don't limit our use of fossil fuels, recycle our waste, and protect our natural resources.
BUCKLEY: A naïve pipe dream, and a nightmare for the free-market economy.
ARMSTRONG: Hey, I think it's a good thing, what they're doing.
DANGERFIELD: Okay if I smoke?
SAGAN: Just open a window, please, if you don't mind.
DANGERFIELD: Not at all. You got a cigarette?
SAGAN: I don't smoke—cigarettes.
DANGERFIELD: Thanks, Satch. I owe you a Lucky.
(The phone rings.)
BUCKLEY: Shouldn't someone answer it?
ARMSTRONG: Maybe it's him—what's his name.
DANGERFIELD: Here, I'll get it. (He picks up the phone.) Hello? Who? No, he's not. Me? I'm Ed McMahon. (He hangs up.)
ARMSTRONG: You're a funny guy.
DANGERFIELD: Yeah, then why ain't I rich?
SAGAN: Excuse me, where's the bathroom?
CHONG: Down the hall, first door on the right.
SAGAN: Thanks. (He walks out of the room.)
BUCKLEY: What time is it?
DANGERFIELD: Twenty to.
BUCKLEY: Twenty to what?
CHONG: Hey, you know what? I think I've got a joint in one of the pockets of my jacket.
ARMSTRONG: Then go get it, baby.
(CHONG goes into the hallway.)
DANGERFIELD: Hey, Satch, you ever play the Ruby Room in Detroit?
ARMSTRONG: Never heard of it. But that doesn't mean I never played there.
DANGERFIELD: Good jazz club. Lenny Bruce worked there.
ARMSTRONG: Never heard of it, but like I said—
(CHONG re-enters rooms, holding a lit joint.)
CHONG: (inhaling) Lit a doobie. Here.
(He hands it to BUCKLEY, who takes a long slow, drag, then passes it to ARMSTRONG.)
ARMSTRONG: Thanks, man.
BUCKLEY: I remember when you performed at Yale. 1948. You played an old Kid Ory tune.
(ARMSTRONG hands it to DANGERFIELD, who takes a quick hit, then passes it to CHONG.)
ARMSTRONG: That's one good memory you got. Where'd you say you saw me?
SAGAN: You know what? I've got to go. I really do.
(CHONG passes the joint to SAGAN.)
(He takes a long drag.)
CHONG: Good shit, eh?
SAGAN: (holding his breath) Yeah.
DANGERFIELD: Don't Bogart that joint, my friend, pass it over to Rodney.
(SAGAN passes it to DANGERFIELD.)
SAGAN: (exhaling) I really should go.
(There's a soft knock on the door. They all freeze.)
ARMSTRONG: You think it's him?
CHONG: Could be. I'll check.
(He goes over to the door as the others, getting more stoned by the second, observe.)
CHONG: Who is it?
VOICE: (whispering) Al.
VOICE: Yeah, Al.
CHONG: Al's not here, man.
VOICE: No, I'm Al.
CHONG: You're looking for Al?
VOICE: No, I am Al.
CHONG: Al's not here, man, I keep telling you.
VOICE: Let me in, I don't have a key.
CHONG: You what?
VOICE: I don't have a key. A key.
CHONG: You've got a key? (to others) He's got a key.
VOICE: Open up.
CHONG: Okay, man.
(He opens the door, revealing AL GORE.)
CHONG: Al, it's you.
GORE: Yes. Sorry I'm so late. There's a demonstration on H Street that's got traffic backed up for—hey, has someone been smoking in here?
BUCKLEY: Nobody but us chickens. (He starts giggling uncontrollably.)
GORE: Gee, I wish you hadn't done that.
CHONG: Hey, sorry, man. I thought your folks were away.
GORE: They are. But the smell gets in the curtains.
SAGAN: I better go. Do you, uh, have my little package?
GORE: Yeah, sure…here. It's Panamanian Red. No seeds. Thirty-five a lid.
(He hands him a small brown paper bag with a rubber band wrapped around it.)
SAGAN: Thank you.
BUCKLEY: Panama. My kind of country.
(GORE hands similar bags out to the others.)
SAGAN: I'd like to stay, but I'm already a little late to this big Earth Day dinner.
DANGERFIELD: You going by the Hilton? We can share a cab.
BUCKLEY: Mr. Armstrong, allow me to drive you home.
ARMSTRONG: Thanks, but I'm staying in this hotel. You can walk me to the elevator.
CHONG: Here's your money, man. One seventy-five.
(CHONG hands GORE a fistful of money and heads out the door with the others, who are all stoned and giggling at this point.)
GORE: Uh, great, thanks. Hey, be careful, you guys. Seriously.
(The elevator arrives. They all get on as GORE closes the door.)