Thursday, March 12, 2009

Unpublished excerpt from "When Baseball Met Hollywood"

Two years ago I worked on a proposed book on the marriage of West Coast baseball and Hollywood. Whether this work will ever see the light of day via the regular publishing process is a mystery. But why let it sit forlornly on my computer. I will run pieces sporadically. Enjoy!

High Man on the Totem Pole

Everyone knows this most famous of plot devices. There’s a mixed group representing all classes of society who find themselves together and have to find a way to co-exist. No, not Renoir’s Grand Illusion. Not Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away. Not even Cinderella. Of course, it’s Gilligan’s Island. In this season three entry, we have two Dodger cameos that would be out of place anywhere but the deserted tropical paradise where the crew and passengers of the S. S. Minnow dwell.

The standard opening buffoonery begins when the Skipper and Gilligan, lost as usual and in a struggle with entangling vines that gives us an unpleasant glimpse of the Skipper’s bulging white midriff, find themselves face to face with a totem pole. This frightening visage sends the two clowns into a tizzy. As they scan the pole, eyes slowly glancing upward, they see, to their surprise, the splitting image of the first mate, a Gilligan-head wearing, it seems, a crown made up of a bent pan flute.

After the theme song, which despite great resistance remains catchy, the Professor helps the hapless duo clear brush. Knowing all, the Prof quickly realizes this is a totem pole of the Kupakai, a native tribe of the area’s islands. Oh, and by the way, they are a vicious tribe of headhunters. Worrying that his position at the top of the pole may be an advertisement for his own beheading, Gilligan stats to wonder if maybe he himself has headhunter heritage.

The Skipper holds a briefing for the Howells, Ginger and Mary Ann. The Howells, perhaps wondering why they took some tourist boat rather than their own yacht for a leisurely cruise, dismiss Gilligan’s idea that he has a violent native. The glamorous Ginger, played by former Bo Belinsky squeeze Tina Louise, also has her doubts, although not as many doubts as cocktail dresses that she brought on the three hour journey. Sweet Mary Ann testifies to Gilligan’s lovable nature.

A relaxing drive through the jungle in a peddle-powered bamboo taxi brings Gilligan and the Howells to the foot of the totem pole. As the Howells drive Gilligan into a frenzy with their incessant mentioning of the word “head”, Gilligan backs into the pole, where the Howells come face to face with his face. Later, as Gilligan stares transfixed by his likeness, Ginger slinks up in an attempt to distract the poor boy. It doesn’t work. Despite Ginger’s curvaceous body and sexually aggressive actions, Gilligan is undeterred from his fixation. He either is truly of headhunter descent, or gay.

The Skipper, Gilligan’s dearest friend, has another idea. If the redheaded bombshell had no affect on his Little Buddy, he knows what will. Is it two red headed bombshells? No, it’s a blonde; a blonde painted boomerang. Really. The Skipper made a yellow boomerang with red stripes and actually felt that would succeed where Ginger could not. Makes you wonder about where the Skipper is coming from. Gilligan is uninterested until he realizes that perhaps natives use them in their hunts. The headhunter manqué throws the boomerang and on its return pins the Skipper by the neck to the totem pole. Perhaps, Gilligan does have decapitation in his blood.

Hysterical reports from Mary Ann inform the Skipper and Professor that Gilligan was seen wild-eyed and wielding an axe. The two men run towards the sound of chopping, where Gilligan is found hacking his doppelganger off the pole. His first attempt at real headhunting forces the bean pole Gilligan to leave the camp, but when the Professor offers his own head to chopping block, Gilligan can’t cut it. He’s cured - case closed. Except, three real Kupakai find the dislodged wooden noggin and swear that the perpetrator of this heresy will die. Here are our Dodgers under feathery headdresses and behind war paint. After being swept by the Orioles in the 1966 World Series, the two Dodgers need to be in disguise. 1965 Rookie of the Year Jm Lefebvre plays Headhunter 1. Al “The Bull” Ferrara plays Headhunter 2. When his agent was asked if Ferrara was up to the role of #2, he said, “Only if he doesn’t have to catch anything.”

Lefebvre provides some exposition. The Gilligan head is in reality “Mashuka, great king. Greatest headhunter of all.” Ferrara, back to the camera, replies: “Also, very angry-looking.” Lefebvre replaces the Mashuka head at the top of the pole. Gilligan, and separately the Professor and Skipper, head back to the post to replace the head. On their way, they see the trio of natives furiously headed to the lagoon to do some chopping of white people heads, Lefebvre wielding a very long, very fake sword. The men split up to warn their shipmates, with Gilligan in charge of informing the girls. The girls are neck deep in a mud bath, which of course makes Gilligan think he is too late to save them. He really is a dope- even when they talk to him he’s not sure how their disembodied heads manage speech.

Meanwhile. Lefebvre and Ferrara manhandle the Howells, who try to bribe their way out of the problem. Ferrara stirs the pot for Howell soup as the millionaires, in their third outfits of the day, are tethered to a tree. Lefebvre hones his sword. Now, it’s already taken way to long for the obvious answer to the problem at hand. Gilligan, or at least his face, is clearly important in Kupakai culture. His power can be used to help the bedeviled captives. Finally the Professor pieces it together. It’s hard to know how the Professor would know that the man on the pole is a king, but he does. Adorning a spare pan flute headband, Gilligan learns the Kupakai words for free the prisoners and is sent off.

First, the Skipper stumbles into the scene to buy time. As the Dodgers, who seem a bit potbellied for professional athletes, tie the portly helmsman, Gilligan finally gets his lines right, and after checking himself out in the mirror, heads out to save the day. While he is in a narcissistic daze, the tribesmen come to take the girls and Professor. Gilligan arrives on the scene and as the Professor and Skipper wriggle their way out of the vines that attach them to the totem pole, the wooden Mashuka falls into the false Mashuka’s hands. Fumbling as he climbs in an attempt to replace the fallen cranium, Gilligan drops the great chief’s skull and accidentally becomes the living incarnation of the great king. The trio of savages kneels in prayer chanting “Simpa Mashuka.” Kinda sounds like “simply Mashugga,” but that would be a Yiddish prayer.

Gilligan attempts to speak Kupakai. The head headhunter questions him, in English, as to why he doesn’t speak real Kupakai. Menacingly the headhunters slowly move forward, but Gilligan, in a mad scramble falls to the sand and pushes the head out into plain view. The Kupakai panic, Ferrara yelling, “We killed Burda Mashuka.” Aided by sped up film, the Dodgers quickly flee, as if they couldn’t wait to get out of there. Can’t blame them.

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