The Day the City Stood Still
First the mayor went on the air to say Daryl Gates ought to resign in order to heal the city’s wounds.
Then the chief went on the air to say Tom Bradley ought to shut up in order to heal the city’s wounds.
Then my telephone rang.
On the line was a one-eyed Irishman from San Leandro of whom I have written before. He is, he likes to say, the Man Who Hates L.A. Most.
I don’t know why he hates us exactly, but I suspect simply living in San Leandro tends to create hostility in a person.
“I love it,” the Irishman was saying with obvious delight. “A mayor who once refused to resign at war with a police chief who also refuses to quit.
“It’s so Hollywood. Gates running around like a Keystone Kop, and Bradley trying to figure out who’s on first. In the closing scene, his suspenders break and his pants fall down.
“The whole town is turning into a movie of the week.”
He ended with the kind of laugh often associated with diseases of the mind, and left me cursing the dial tone.
But the guy has a point. Consider the scenario:
A plumber with a camera videotapes cops beating a black man, the chief says he’ll look into it, crowds demand his resignation, other crowds demand his continuation, the chief hires a P.R. firm, the mayor asks the chief to please leave, pretty please, and the chief says everyone go to hell.
It has MOW written all over it.
I’ve turned out a few television movies myself and feel qualified to offer at least a modest example of how such a property, as we say, might be developed.
The subject has potential because it’s real. There’s nothing TV likes better than reality-based ideas to sandwich between Doogie Howser and Roseanne Barr.
But first we buy the story rights from those involved in order to assure that the final product will not be based on the kind of cotton-candy fiction for which television is famous.
Then, of course, we create truth by throwing out reality.
This may seem a contradiction in terms, but no one’s going to watch a movie about a dull mayor locked in combat with a dull chief over whether or not cops ought to be allowed to brutalize people they’re arresting.
“America’s Grimmest Home Videos” is not likely to do as well as its funny prototype.
So we start with casting. Think of Arsenio Hall as Tom Bradley and Mark Harmon as Daryl Gates. L.A. needs a hip mayor anyhow, and, God knows, we can use a chief everyone finds sweet, if not too bright.
The tough part is casting someone for the role of Rodney King, the future multimillionaire beaten by the soon-to-be former cops.
King, I’m sorry to say, lacks sex appeal.
What we need is to have a beautiful woman brutalized. Preferably a woman not wearing a lot of clothes. A Kim Basinger type.
On second thought, feminists would never go for knocking a broad around, so we’ll have to temper the violence here. Maybe the cops manifest sexist tendencies by not letting her into their all-male quartet.
Did I mention they were singing cops? Rap-cops, actually. The Blue Ghouls.
The story line, of course, isn’t as important as casting, but you’ve got to have some kind of script a producer can alter and a network destroy.
I see the “A” story as it should be, a confrontation between the mayor and the chief. But it’s the “B” story that carries the day.
It works this way: Bradley hates Gates for an incident that occurs when they are both cops on the beat together.
It happens on Tom’s fifth anniversary with the department. Daryl wants to celebrate by taking Tom to dinner. But where does the fool take him? To a fried chicken place.
Tom sees it as a racial slur. Daryl for the life of him can’t figure out why. Normal people aren’t that sensitive, he muses, so why should a colored guy complain?
This creates animosity that festers and explodes years later when the Blue Ghouls won’t let Kim into their group.
Then all hell breaks loose when Gloria Allred (Tyne Daly?) leads a march on City Hall demanding that the Blue Ghouls be disbanded.
Then there’s a car chase, two sex scenes and plans for a final, brutal fight to the death between Tom and Daryl that is prevented in the nick of time by--you ready for this?--Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
The movie ends with Batman as mayor and one of the turtles as chief, and we all live happily ever after.
I know. It’s silly, crazy and totally unbelievable, but, as a one-eyed Irishman from San Leandro might say, hey, man . . . it’s L.A.