The Gang of Five

(From out of the darkness we hear the ritual beating of tribal drums, followed by an anguished scream, and then silence, broken momentarily by a very loud burp, and then, a longer silence -- until a spotlight illuminates the face of RAY COWAN.)

COWAN: Good evening. I'm Ray Cowan, and this is "The Gang of Five" for January the Sixteenth, 1992.

(The lights come up on a spare TV political talk show set, a la "The McLaughlin Group" or "The Capital Gang" or "Washington Week In Review," with five people seated in a semi-circle around a coffee table. They are: COWAN, the stern and blustery host; HARVEY BARDWELL, a conservative commentator; AINSLEY OWSLEY, a liberal journalist; MARGUERITE PAISLEY, a Washington correspondent for a weekly news magazine; and CICERO MARTIN, a black syndicated columnist. In the background, pre-recorded theme music blares, then goes away.)

COWAN: Page One: This week President Bush promised to veto the foreign aid bill. Is he right or wrong? Harvey Bardwell.

BARDWELL: The American public is fed up with these handouts.

COWAN: Marguerite Paisley -- you agree?

PAISLEY: Of course not. We have to help. It's in our best interest.

COWAN: You're saying our survival is linked to theirs?

PAISLEY: Absolutely.

COWAN: Ainsley Owsley?

OWSLEY: George Bush has no understanding of the immense human suffering he'll cause by this veto. He'd rather bail out his golf-playing cronies than feed the hungry masses of eastern Europe.

COWAN: Cicero Martin. For or against the veto?


COWAN: Expand.

MARTIN: There are over thirty million people in this country who go to bed hungry every night. Some of that money should go to feed them.

COWAN: How do you counter that argument, Mr. Owsley?

OWSLEY: The two billion or so we would spend doesn't come out of any domestic programs, so there is no argument. We could feed eastern Europe and feed the hungry over here too -- if we only had the will.

BARDWELL: Throw money at it? That's the answer? Drown our problems in cash?

OWSLEY: Yes. In fact, Harvey, I propose we take a plane -- one of those big C-5A cargo jobs -- and drop billions of dollars on every depressed area in the United States. Then you'll see some action.

MARTIN: Large or small bills?

OWSLEY: Dimes. The American way.

COWAN: Let's move away from the sarcasm. Page Two: Last week the House wrangled with the issue of affirmative action, the liberal panacea for all our social ills. Ainsley Owsley, your view on quotas.

OWSLEY: I'm in favor of them.

COWAN: Explain.

OWSLEY: Well, for one thing, without quotas, Cicero wouldn't be here.

MARTIN: What's that supposed to mean?

OWSLEY: Nothing personal, but you probably wouldn't have been hired if you weren't black, and a moderate. They didn't want another burnt-out radical like me, or another right wing nut cake like Harvey here. They needed balance.

BARDWELL: I resent the "nut cake" remark, Owsley.

OWSLEY: Sorry. Head case.

PAISLEY: He's right. I doubt very much if I would be on this program if it weren't for a growing public consciousness regarding the hiring of women.

BARDWELL: That doesn't show a whole lot of self-esteem, Marguerite. Couldn't you have been hired on the basis of your ability?

PAISLEY: I'm not saying I wasn't. You'd have to ask Ray that.

COWAN: Page Three: Election reform. Marguerite Paisley, you're one of the most vocal backers of this form of federal thievery, why don't you explain it to the rest of us.

PAISLEY: Nothing really to explain. Election reform would make it easier for average citizens to get involved in the political process.

COWAN: In other words, you would pick the pockets of American taxpayers to finance campaigns by inexperienced, single-issue amateurs. Harvey Bardwell. Election reform -- what say you?

BARDWELL: Thumbs down, Ray.

COWAN: A bunch of liberal hooey?

BARDWELL: You got it.

COWAN: Owsley?

OWSLEY: All I'll do is quote one of our great legal scholars, who said: "Give me, if nothing else, the right to represent myself."

COWAN: All right. Capital punishment. For or against? Harvey Bardwell, your views.

BARDWELL: For. The bleeding hearts would spare the life of every monster who chainsaws his way through a family of four. They'd keep these vermin alive -- and then they'd have us pay for their rehabilitation. I say kill them. Teach them a lesson they won't forget.

COWAN: Marguerite Paisley, a dissenting opinion, I assume.

PAISLEY: You assume wrong. I'm in favor of the death penalty. In certain cases.

OWSLEY: Like bullying people on political talk shows?

COWAN: Let her answer.


COWAN: Rape? But not murder?

PAISLEY: It would depend. Some murders are in self-defense, some are due to madness, some are accidental. And some are so horrible, so abominable, so -- odious -- that they violate all civilized behavior and, well...

COWAN: Cicero Martin, have you ever murdered anyone?


COWAN: Have you ever murdered anyone? Have you ever taken anyone else's life?

MARTIN: What kind of a question is that?

COWAN: Ainsley Owsley, your position on capital punishment.

OWSLEY: Against.

COWAN: And why?

OWSLEY: Because it doesn't deter future homicides.

COWAN: You can prove that?

OWSLEY: If you'd give me a little time I could.

COWAN: Page Four: The environment, global warming, the "greenhouse effect," depletion of the ozone layer, air pollution, nuclear waste -- Ainsley Owsley, when will it all end?

OWSLEY: When will what end?

COWAN: At what point will liberals run out of imaginary causes about which to rant and rave?

OWSLEY: Imaginary?

COWAN: These doomsday theories never pan out -- after a couple of years some new half-baked theory comes along to supplant the old one. Why should we believe any of this malarkey? I've heard scientists say the "greenhouse effect" could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to this planet.

OWSLEY: And nuclear waste too, probably. What are you saying?

COWAN: I'm saying that sometimes the worst case scenario turns out to be the answer to a prayer.

OWSLEY: Yeah -- "Deliver us, O Lord, from this earthly mess."

COWAN: Question: You're stranded on a lifeboat, the four of you, adrift at sea, no land in sight, no food, no potable water. The lifeboat can't stay afloat with all four of you aboard. One must be sacrificed -- either thrown overboard, or eaten. Who goes?

MARTIN: What does this have to do with anything?

COWAN: Answer the question.

MARTIN: It's a ridiculous question.

COWAN: Ainsley Owsley.


COWAN: Who do you sacrifice?

OWSLEY: Is this a metaphor for Europe? The fall of Communism?

COWAN: Harvey Bardwell, how much do you weigh?

BARDWELL: I beg your pardon?

COWAN: How much do you weigh? What's the percentage of fat on your body?

BARDWELL: I don't see where you're going with this, Ray.

COWAN: Marguerite Paisley -- if you had no other means of survival, would you eat Harvey Bardwell?


COWAN: Answer the question.

PAISLEY: I won't answer the question.

COWAN: All right, let's move on. Page Five: The Middle East. Can there ever really be a workable, lasting peace agreement?

MARTIN: I'm sorry... I'm... not feeling well.

PAISLEY: What's the matter, Cicero?

MARTIN: I'm feeling a little queasy, a little nauseous.

OWSLEY: I don't blame you. Let's stop the tape.

PAISLEY: Do you need a doctor?

MARTIN: No, no. Maybe it's an upset stomach. If we could stop the tape...

PAISLEY: Stop the tape, Ray. He doesn't look well.

BARDWELL: You're not going to throw up, are you?

OWSLEY: We'll stop the tape. Ray, stop the tape.

COWAN: I can't.

OWSLEY: What do you mean you can't? Tell the director to stop the tape.

COWAN: I can't.

PAISLEY: Why not?

COWAN: There's no tape to stop.

OWSLEY: So this is live?

COWAN: Sort of.

OWSLEY: Sort of?

BARDWELL: Cicero? Are you all right?

MARTIN: I'm okay. Must have been something I ate. Go ahead, I'm okay. Let's continue.

PAISLEY: Are you sure?

MARTIN: Yeah, I'm sure. Go ahead.

COWAN: All right, then. Ainsley Owsley -- your thoughts on the space station.

OWSLEY: The space station? It's a big waste of money.

COWAN: Is that your reasoned response?

OWSLEY: God, Ray, you're overbearing. Of course that was my reasoned response. How the hell can you say that? Are we really on live?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?


MARTIN: Where's the professor?

OWSLEY: The professor?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: What do you mean, Cicero?

MARTIN: Where's the professor? Where's the professor?

OWSLEY: What's gotten into him?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: The professor? What professor?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

OWSLEY: Cicero? Cicero?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: Cicero?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

OWSLEY: He's like a parrot.

BARDWELL: He's having delusions.

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: What professor, Cicero? What professor?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

OWSLEY: Great. How long is this going to keep up?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: Ray -- do something.

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: Let's get a doctor in here.

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

COWAN: Let him continue.

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: What do you mean? He's not rational, Ray.

OWSLEY: Who ever said Ray was rational?

COWAN: That's enough, Owsley. Any more ad hominem remarks and I'll have to cut you off.

OWSLEY: Cut me off? How?

COWAN: I'll limit the amount of time you're given to speak.

OWSLEY: Oh? You can do that?

PAISLEY: I think he stopped.


OWSLEY: So he has.

COWAN: Cicero Martin, your thoughts on the chances for a lasting peace in the --

PAISLEY: Wait, Ray, not so fast. Let him get his bearings.

MARTIN: No, that's all right, I can answer. What was it again?

COWAN: The Middle East. The chances for a lasting peace.

MARTIN: Well, I'm an optimist. If they keep talking, and continue the dialogue that's been started, then, who knows? The key thing is dialogue. They must continue to keep talking to each other -- above all else.

COWAN: And, on that optimistic note, we'll take a break.

(The lights dim slightly.)

MARTIN: I apologize for that.

PAISLEY: You shouldn't be apologizing. Ray should be apologizing. What's going on, Ray?

COWAN: Just having a little fun.


OWSLEY: Well, I don't appreciate it.

COWAN: You've got a thin skin.

OWSLEY: It's not funny.

COWAN: You started it.

OWSLEY: I did not.

BARDWELL: Excuse me --

OWSLEY: You brought up the whole cannibalism thing, didn't you?

BARDWELL: Excuse me --

COWAN: I only brought it up to make a point.

BARDWELL: Excuse me. Excuse me -- something's wrong here.

PAISLEY: What's wrong?

BARDWELL: Well, this show doesn't have commercials. We're on public television. Why are we breaking for a commercial?

PAISLEY: He's right. We're on public TV.

OWSLEY: Yeah, Ray. Is this something new? Commercials?

COWAN: Who said anything about a commercial?

OWSLEY: I thought we "broke" for a commercial? What's with the lights, then?

COWAN: Marguerite Paisley. Term limitations -- your views.

PAISLEY: I thought we were on a break?

(The lights come back up.)

COWAN: The break is over. Term limitations: For or against? How say you, Marguerite Paisley?

PAISLEY: Term limits?

COWAN: Term limits. For or against.

PAISLEY: Against.

COWAN: Explain.

PAISLEY: It's unconstitutional.

COWAN: How so?

PAISLEY: If the people want someone to represent them, they should have the right to put them -- and keep them -- in office.

COWAN: You have nothing against someone staying in office indefinitely?

PAISLEY: Well, no.

OWSLEY: What about the Presidency? A two-term limit is imposed on the Presidency.

COWAN: Good point, Owsley.

PAISLEY: That may be a different case.


PAISLEY: Well, absolute power... you know.

OWSLEY: Absolute power corrupts absolutely?

PAISLEY: Exactly.

OWSLEY: Why should the President be treated differently than other elected officials?

PAISLEY: Are you in favor of term limits, Ainsley?


PAISLEY: Then why are you arguing with me? We agree!

COWAN: He's argumentative, dearie.

PAISLEY: Don't "dearie" me, Ray. By the way, where do you stand on term limits?

COWAN: I don't have an opinion.

PAISLEY: You don't?

OWSLEY: How long have we been on the air, Harvey?

BARDWELL: Eight years, nearly.

OWSLEY: That's two terms. Your time's up, Ray.

COWAN: Very funny. Page Six: The economy. Harvey Bardwell, would you call this thing we're in a recession, a recessionary phase, a downturn, a dip, or a plunge?

BARDWELL: Try malaise. A malaise of the Western banking system, a malaise of the world trading markets, a malaise of the entire world's way of doing business.

COWAN: Explain.


MARTIN: Where's the professor?


MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: Not again.

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

OWSLEY: Who could he be referring to?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

BARDWELL: Could be a professor he once had.

OWSLEY: Brilliant deduction.

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

BARDWELL: One who had a profound effect on him, intellectually, perhaps.

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

OWSLEY: More likely he's having delusions. Why don't we just stop everything and call a doctor?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

PAISLEY: Is there a phone in here?

MARTIN: Where's the professor?

COWAN: There's no phone.

PAISLEY: Why is there no phone? What if there's an emergency -- like now?

COWAN: Who ever heard of a phone on a show like this?

PAISLEY: I would think that, in certain cases, a phone would be -- has he stopped?

OWSLEY: He's stopped.


MARTIN: Uh, yes, I'm sorry. Sorry. I don't know what happened, I just...

PAISLEY: Are you all right?

COWAN: Harvey Bardwell -- the Japanese tariff. Fair play or restraint of trade?

BARDWELL: I, well, I want to make sure Cicero is all right before I, uh --

COWAN: Ainsley Owsley. The tariff. Your thoughts. Don't bother. I know what you think about the tariff -- and every other piece of restrictive legislation. You're for it. You're for everything -- every program, every tax, every tariff, every ceiling, every restraint, every limitation.

OWSLEY: Thanks for answering for me. I'd like to answer for you sometime.

COWAN: Marguerite Paisley, do you have any idea what the rate of exchange is for the dollar versus the yen?

PAISLEY: What are you asking? Do I know how many yen there are in a dollar? No, not off hand. I could guess. Do you want me to guess? Forty.

COWAN: Wrong. You're not close. Harvey Bardwell, outside the beltway, away from the corridors of power, people, just plain ordinary people, are asking: What next? What next for the economy, and their jobs? What next for an unstable eastern Europe? What next for South Africa? For Cuba? For Central America? For South America? What next for... China? What do you say to these people?

BARDWELL: Well, I wouldn't know where to begin, Ray, I --

COWAN: Take all the time you need.

OWSLEY: How much time do we have? When's this show over?

COWAN: Don't ask me.

OWSLEY: Why not? You're the moderator, the host. You're in charge, aren't you?

COWAN: How so?

OWSLEY: It's your show, isn't it?

COWAN: It's "The Gang of Five," not "The Ray Cowan Show."

OWSLEY: But it's your show. You run it. You own it. Don't you?


OWSLEY: You don't own the show?

COWAN: No. I used to own it.

OWSLEY: When did you sell?

PAISLEY: Don't you remember? He sold his interest in the show last year.

BARDWELL: And did pretty well, too.

COWAN: I had to. They made me.

PAISLEY: They made you sell? You never said that before, Ray.

COWAN: They wanted someone else.

PAISLEY: Ray, no! Who?

COWAN: I'll tell you later.

PAISLEY: Don't tease us. Who?

OWSLEY: Fenn Carstairs?

COWAN: Later. I'll tell you later.

OWSLEY: What's later? After the show? I bet it's Fenn Carstairs.

COWAN: Let's get off this subject. Star Wars -- what say you, Cicero Martin.

MARTIN: Star Wars?

OWSLEY: They were really going to drop you, Ray? Wow.

COWAN: Cicero Martin. Star Wars.

OWSLEY: I can't believe it.

MARTIN: Star Wars? You mean SDI?

COWAN: No -- the motion picture.

MARTIN: The movie?

PAISLEY: Hey -- Ray made a joke!

OWSLEY: What's gotten into you, Ray?

COWAN: All right, all right, let's move on...

PAISLEY: That was funny, Ray -- for you, I mean.

COWAN: Let's move on. Star Wars. Cicero Martin.


COWAN: Your thoughts. SDI.

MARTIN: SDI? Scrub it. There's no threat anymore from the Soviet Union, and any nut can plant a bomb somewhere -- there's no defense against that -- so, we don't need it. Free the money for the poor, and the schools.

COWAN: So, you and Harvey are on opposite sides of this one.

MARTIN: About the only thing Harvey and I agree on is immigration law.


COWAN: Marguerite Paisley, have you any thoughts regarding the Strategic Defense Initiative -- or don't matters scientific fall within your feminist purview.

PAISLEY: My "feminist purview?" What kind of crap is that? Of course I have an opinion.

COWAN: And I'm sure it's an interesting one, but we have to take a break.

(The lights dim slightly.)

PAISLEY: Is this really a break?

OWSLEY: Ray, are you in charge? Or is someone else running things? Where's the director?

BARDWELL: Is this a commercial, Ray, or what?

PAISLEY: What's going on? Explain.

COWAN: I'll explain. First... Has anyone here ever really stopped to examine his or her life? How much time have you spent contemplating, reflecting on the worth of your deeds, both good and bad?

PAISLEY: What do you mean?

COWAN: I've been thinking, Marguerite. I've been thinking about, well, my life.

PAISLEY: That's good, Ray.

OWSLEY: It is?

COWAN: And, after an exhaustive search back to my earliest memories, I've come to the conclusion that I've been pretty fair and even-handed in my dealings with other men.

PAISLEY: How about women?

COWAN: Seriously, Marguerite.

PAISLEY: You're talking like your life is nearly over.

COWAN: No, I just thought that some deep self-analysis followed by a public confession would cleanse my soul and renew my spirit.

OWSLEY: Is that it? That's your confession? After going over your entire life you couldn't find anything to feel even slightly remorseful about? No regrets? No mistakes? You wouldn't change anything? Maybe we should call you Saint Ray.

COWAN: Oh, once or twice perhaps, I've disappointed myself.

OWSLEY: Disappointed yourself? How?

COWAN: Once -- quite recently, in fact.

OWSLEY: Go ahead. Tell us.

COWAN: Later.

OWSLEY: Always "later." Come on, Ray, tell us now.

COWAN: Let's move on.

(The lights come back up.)

COWAN: Harvey Bardwell, you've never shied away from controversial issues, especially when it comes to hot potatoes like abortion, or prayer in the schools...

MARTIN: Mmm, potatoes.

COWAN: What say you on the subject of making English the official language of the United States?

BARDWELL: English is the official language, isn't it?

COWAN: By what decree or law?

BARDWELL: I thought it was.

OWSLEY: It is in England.

BARDWELL: It isn't here?

COWAN: Would you, then, support a constitutional amendment making English the official language of the United States?


OWSLEY: Why, Ray? Has the help been making fun of you behind your back again?

COWAN: Put it this way. As schoolchildren we were required to take years of French, Spanish, Latin, Greek -- but newcomers to this land aren't even required to learn "Thank you" in our language.

PAISLEY: That's the way it should be. Do American businessmen have to learn Japanese in order to do business in Japan?

OWSLEY: Good point, Marguerite. Irrelevant, but good.

COWAN: The estimated cost of bilingual education in the United States now stands at a staggering three hundred and fifty million dollars a year.

MARTIN: I was just thinking: What would the professor think of bilingual education?

PAISLEY: The professor? Who do you mean, Cicero?

MARTIN: The professor. You know, the professor.

OWSLEY: Professor Who, Cicero?

MARTIN: Professor Ginzburg.

OWSLEY: Ginzburg?

MARTIN: Professor Elliot Ginzburg.

PAISLEY: Ginzburg?

OWSLEY: Doesn't ring a bell.

BARDWELL: There was a Ginzburg at Georgetown once --

MARTIN: That's him!

BARDWELL: I don't remember much about him though.

MARTIN: You must. He sat right here. Every week. Professor Ginzburg sat right here, between Ray and Harvey. Don't you remember?

OWSLEY: Delusions.

PAISLEY: Cicero, are you sure you don't want us to call a doctor?

MARTIN: I'm fine. Really. I'm fine.

BARDWELL: Maybe we should call a doctor.

MARTIN: No, really.

PAISLEY: Ray -- when is this show over?

COWAN: What?

PAISLEY: When does it end?

COWAN: What do you mean, end?

PAISLEY: When does it end?

COWAN: I told you. I don't know.

PAISLEY: Don't you get a signal or something?

COWAN: It'll end when it ends.

BARDWELL: Wait, now I remember -- vaguely, but I remember -- someone... was he tall?

MARTIN: The professor is over six feet tall.

OWSLEY: What are you talking about? There was no Professor Ginzburg on this show. This is ridiculous!

PAISLEY: Let's move on. Ray, take charge. We're running out of time, aren't we?.

BARDWELL: And did he have whiskers, little wispy whiskers along his neck and under his chin?

MARTIN: Yes --

BARDWELL: And was he balding, or nearly bald?

MARTIN: That's the professor!

BARDWELL: He wore a bow tie. He always wore a bow tie.

MARTIN: Exactly.

OWSLEY: All right. Let's get back to the show -- could we?


OWSLEY: Come on, Ray, take over.

MARTIN: Do you remember what the professor always did before he said something? He'd lean back, and play with his whiskers, and --

BARDWELL: And he'd say, "On the one hand you have the argument blah blah blah, and on the other hand you have the argument blah blah blah."

MARTIN: He's really quite amazing. And what a memory! He can recall hundreds -- thousands -- of legal cases, and recite the decisions as if reading them right out of a book. Amazing.

OWSLEY: Yeah, well, I'm sure this professor of yours is something, but could we get back to the reason we're all here?

BARDWELL: There will never be another one like him, that's for sure. Ray, you remember the professor, don't you?

COWAN: Vaguely. But let's move on. Predict for us, if you will, the rate of inflation for the coming year -- Marguerite Paisley.


COWAN: The inflation rate. Plus, minus, how much? Take a guess.

PAISLEY: Well, of course it's a guess. Five percent.

COWAN: That's your guess? Five percent? Why so high?

PAISLEY: I thought it was low.

COWAN: Five percent is high in my book.

BARDWELL: It all depends.

OWSLEY: What's the point, Ray?

PAISLEY: Yeah, what's the point?

COWAN: Cicero Martin, your guess.

MARTIN: I'm not guessing.

COWAN: Why not?

MARTIN: The professor used to say: "Never make predictions. A prediction is like a snake that eats itself."

PAISLEY: I've heard that before.

MARTIN: But -- what happened to him? Where did he go?

COWAN: Relax. I don't know what happened to your professor friend, but I'm sure he'll turn up.

MARTIN: You think I'm imagining the professor, but I'm not. He exists. Doesn't he, Harvey?

BARDWELL: Yes. I think so.

MARTIN: He's real, he's alive, he has flesh, and blood, and a great mind -- maybe even greater than yours, Owsley.

OWSLEY: Does he know how to swim?

MARTIN: Very funny.

COWAN: So, given there was a professor --


COWAN: Given there is a professor -- what are we supposed to do about it?

MARTIN: Explain why he's not here, where he went, and why!

PAISLEY: When did you last see the professor, Cicero?

MARTIN: I don't know.

PAISLEY: Last week? Last year?

MARTIN: It's hard to pin down.

OWSLEY: A long time ago?

MARTIN: I know what you're implying, and I am not hallucinating. He was here!

COWAN: Page Seven: The shaky alliance between North and South Korea. Harvey Bardwell, can we trust North Korea and its communist dictator Kim Il Sung?

BARDWELL: No, we can't.

COWAN: And why not?

BARDWELL: Because there's no way to keep him honest. There's no opposition, no opposition party, no figure to challenge his supreme authority. He's been in power since 1972 and hasn't expressed any desire to reform. The people worship him like a god. He's the absolute leader and anyone who questions him is put to death, or just disappears.

OWSLEY: Well, I didn't want to spoil the surprise, Ray, but now that the cat's out of the bag -- we're sending you to North Korea for your birthday! All expenses paid.

COWAN: Mr. Owsley possesses a keen wit, doesn't he, Cicero Martin?

MARTIN: Well, I --

COWAN: He seems to be implying, through that keen wit of his, that I should be removed. Eliminated. Isn't that correct, Mr. Owsley? Am I reading you properly?

OWSLEY: It's just a joke, Ray. Now who's got the thin skin?

COWAN: It's one thing to belittle, to mock -- but to wish, openly, for my demise, that's going a bit too far, don't you think?

OWSLEY: Did I wish for your demise? I don't remember wishing for your demise. Help me out here, Marguerite.

PAISLEY: Don't look at me. Why do you bait him so much?

OWSLEY: It's... personally rewarding.

COWAN: Just for the sake of argument, let's take a little poll, an informal poll. The question: Should Owsley here be allowed to make spurious comments about me during my show?

OWSLEY: I thought it wasn't your show anymore?

COWAN: That's not the point. Let's vote. Marguerite, let's start with you.

PAISLEY: This is ridiculous, Ray. It's childish.

COWAN: Come on, Marguerite. It wouldn't kill you to register an opinion.

PAISLEY: Maybe I don't have an opinion.

COWAN: That'll be the day.

PAISLEY: Oh, I see. Goading me into a response. All right, I'll vote -- if it's by secret ballot.

MARTIN: Secret ballot. Secret ballot. Secret ballot.

BARDWELL: Uh oh, he's off again.

MARTIN: No I'm not. I'm fine. I'm perfectly fine. Secret ballot -- that's how it all began. It began with a secret ballot.

PAISLEY: What are you talking about?

MARTIN: The professor.

OWSLEY: He's back!

MARTIN: Ginzburg argued -- forcefully -- on and on, for hours, but to no avail. Ray, you almost came over to his side, you almost took his side --

COWAN: This is nonsense.

OWSLEY: You know, a doctor wouldn't be such a bad idea. Who'll go out and get a doctor?

BARDWELL: He doesn't need a doctor. A little water, maybe. Go on, Cicero. What else happened?

MARTIN: There was a vote. By secret ballot.


MARTIN: And... the professor lost.

BARDWELL: What did he lose?

MARTIN: I don't know.

OWSLEY: He's nuts. I thought we established this already.

PAISLEY: Quiet, Ainsley. You don't always make sense, either.

OWSLEY: All right -- but I don't remember any Professor Ginzburg. I don't remember anybody with whiskers and a red bow tie sitting between Ray and Harvey. And I've been here as long as Ray has been here. And that's longer than you've been here, Marguerite.

PAISLEY: You're getting a little defensive.

BARDWELL: Yeah. More than a little.


BARDWELL: He wore a red bow tie?


BARDWELL: You know who. The professor. The professor you profess -- excuse the wordplay...

OWSLEY: You're not excused.

BARDWELL: ... not to know. The professor of whom you claim to have no recollection.

OWSLEY: What's your point?

BARDWELL: Your description. Of Professor Ginzburg.

OWSLEY: That wasn't my description, that was yours -- and Cicero's.

BARDWELL: No, it was yours. Cicero and I described a tall man with whiskers and a bow tie.


BARDWELL: Don't you see?

OWSLEY: See what?

BARDWELL: The red bow tie.

MARTIN: The bow tie! You said it was red! And it was! It was always red!

OWSLEY: Oh, I see, because I described him in a red bow tie you're ready to assume -- what?

BARDWELL: You added the red part, Ainsley, don't deny it. We never said he wore a red bow tie.

OWSLEY: Maybe I thought I heard you say the word red. It must be something like that, because I still don't remember your professor, and I'm sure I would remember him, especially if he'd been part of this... distinguished panel!

PAISLEY: It's all so curious.

OWSLEY: You're not kidding. I wonder who'll flip out next?

PAISLEY: No, I mean in the sense that both Cicero and Harvey are convinced that there was, at one time, a Professor Elliot Ginzburg, a law professor from Georgetown University, who sat right over there between Harvey and Ray, and was an integral part of this program -- for many years. Doesn't that disturb you?

OWSLEY: No. They've gone mad, not me.

PAISLEY: Both Harvey and Cicero going mad at the same time -- that doesn't seem possible, does it?

OWSLEY: You can throw in Ray, too.

COWAN: Moving on. Page Eight: Japan. Can we compete head-to-head with this economic juggernaut? Harvey Bardwell.


MARTIN: Without the government stepping in to help?


COWAN: Expand.

BARDWELL: Lower the tax on capital gains. No one wants to invest in American business anymore. We need to make it attractive, once again, to make money.

OWSLEY: The way it was in the twenties? By the way, what did you get, Ray?


OWSLEY: For the show. Your share, the buy-out. How much?

COWAN: That's out of order.

OWSLEY: A million? A hundred thousand? A hundred? Who bought you out?

BARDWELL: It was a British investment group. A financial consortium.

PAISLEY: Speculators.

BARDWELL: Watch what you say, Marguerite.

PAISLEY: Why? You think they watch the show?

COWAN: What I was paid has no bearing here.

OWSLEY: How did you keep your job, Ray? Who did they want? Fenn Carstairs?

BARDWELL: He didn't say.

COWAN: It was Carstairs.

OWSLEY: It was?


OWSLEY: So, how'd you hold them off? What kind of a deal was struck?

COWAN: Let's just say that I did the best I could. You'll find this surprising, Owsley, but I actually spoke up for all of you.

BARDWELL: They wanted to get rid of us?

OWSLEY: I'm not surprised.

COWAN: They're interested in the bottom line. Old friendships, alliances, these things are meaningless. They're just a consortium of investors...

PAISLEY: Pirates.

COWAN: ... and they have the right to invest their money wherever they see fit. Even if they're not American.

BARDWELL: That's where you and I differ, Ray.

OWSLEY: So what was your deal?

COWAN: I bought some time, Ainsley. I could have just walked away, but I wanted some more time. Maybe it was a mistake.

BARDWELL: How much time did you buy?

COWAN: One year.

BARDWELL: One year?

OWSLEY: From when? Now?

COWAN: From the time of the deal.

PAISLEY: When was the deal? Wasn't it about a year ago?

BARDWELL: How much time does that leave?

COWAN: Don't panic.

MARTIN: Is this our last show?

COWAN: Maybe.

MARTIN: Maybe?

PAISLEY: But -- no one told us.

BARDWELL: That's not fair, Ray.

COWAN: It's all right.

OWSLEY: How could it be all right?

COWAN: There's still time. I'll explain, during this, our last break.

(The lights dim slightly.)

OWSLEY: Last break? Is... this it?

COWAN: No. We have a little time.

PAISLEY: Well, how much?

COWAN: I don't know. As long as there's light.


OWSLEY: I don't get it.

PAISLEY: It's almost over. It must be.

BARDWELL: I can't believe it.

MARTIN: Well, on the one hand, we've had a good run. A long run. We've all benefitted from the show and, I feel, the viewers have benefitted as well. On the other hand, we're being cancelled just at a time when a show like this is needed, not just from the standpoint of the public interest, but from the personal, and humbling, and, well... frightening prospect of having to face the coming winter with no job, no money... I do have some friends, but...

OWSLEY: What the hell are you talking about?

(The lights come back up.)

COWAN: Harvey Bardwell. Sum up.


COWAN: Any last thoughts?

BARDWELL: Are we out of time?

COWAN: Not quite.

PAISLEY: But... it is almost over?

COWAN: Not necessarily.

BARDWELL: Well, what will keep us going?

COWAN: A little... sacrifice.

BARDWELL: Sacrifice?


OWSLEY: A pay cut?


PAISLEY: Why are you being so mysterious, Ray? What's going on? What's going to happen? Assuming you know.

COWAN: I don't know what's going to happen. You will decide. The four of you.

BARDWELL: Decide what?

COWAN: Who stays. And who goes.

OWSLEY: I don't understand.

COWAN: Someone has to go.

PAISLEY: Expand, Ray. One of us has been fired?

COWAN: No. But someone has to go. This is the word -- the final word. One of you has to go.

BARDWELL: Who decides?

COWAN: You do.

OWSLEY: Why does one of us have to go? Why aren't you included in this?

COWAN: I'm not.

OWSLEY: You're not?

COWAN: That's right. Sorry, Owsley. But you do get to vote. You get to vote by...

MARTIN: Secret ballot.

COWAN: You took the words right out of my mouth, Cicero.

PAISLEY: We get to vote on what?

COWAN: On who goes.

OWSLEY: Wait a minute, Ray. You mean to tell me that they gave you some kind of ultimatum? That one of us has to go in order for the show to stay on?

COWAN: Something like that.

PAISLEY: And they're leaving us with the decision? We get to decide?

COWAN: Yes. Pretty thoughtful of them, wouldn't you say?

PAISLEY: Thoughtful isn't the word.

OWSLEY: What if we don't want to vote?

COWAN: You have to.


COWAN: You have to. Either one goes, or we all go.

PAISLEY: All? You included?

COWAN: That's right, dearie.

PAISLEY: Don't "dearie" me, Ray.

COWAN: It hardly matters anymore, Marguerite. What it's come down to is this: Either the four of you pick someone or there will be dire consequences -- for us all. How you do it doesn't matter -- I suggest a secret ballot since that's the least objectionable way to resolve things -- but what's important is that you do it, and that you do it soon, before we all go under.

OWSLEY: I can't believe what I'm hearing.



BARDWELL: Who would you vote for? If you could vote.

COWAN: I don't get a vote.

BARDWELL: I know. But if you could. Who would it be?

COWAN: Well, I, I would have to take several things into consideration.

BARDWELL: Like what?

COWAN: Hmmm... Age, weight --

BARDWELL: Age? Why would age have anything to do with it?

MARTIN: And where does weight fit into the equation? That's prejudice of the most blatant sort.

PAISLEY: Why would someone's weight or age have any bearing on whether they should be allowed to... stick around.

COWAN: Let's face a few facts, people. The powers that be have said, "Pick one." If we do that, then we can proceed.

OWSLEY: Proceed? To where?

COWAN: The rest of the...

(The lights dim considerably.)

COWAN: ... ceremony.

OWSLEY: This is getting spooky.


BARDWELL: What... what's going on?

PAISLEY: Ray -- what do you mean -- ceremony?

COWAN: Ceremony, ritual, rite -- but we're not up to that part yet. First you must vote.


MARTIN: By secret ballot.

COWAN: Exactly.



PAISLEY: I don't have any paper.

BARDWELL: Neither do I.

COWAN: We won't use paper.

OWSLEY: How can we vote in secret if we don't have paper to write down our secret ballots?

COWAN: Simple. I'll assign a number from one to four to each of you. On my count you will all close your eyes, and then -- simultaneously -- you will each vote, by holding out one, two, three, or four fingers. I will then tally the votes and announce the results. Sound fair?

PAISLEY: Well, it all depends.

COWAN: On what?

PAISLEY: On how much we trust you.

COWAN: It doesn't have to be a secret ballot, you know.

OWSLEY: It doesn't?

COWAN: No. We could just call for a raising of hands. All those for Owsley? Three. All those for Cicero? None. All those for Marguerite? None. All those for --

OWSLEY: All right, Ray, we get the point.

MARTIN: I have a question.


MARTIN: Don't we get the opportunity to... say something?

COWAN: Do you really think that's necessary?


COWAN: You do?

BARDWELL: Yes. I think we should each be allowed to say a few things before the vote. Give me, if nothing else, the right to represent myself.

PAISLEY: Who said that?

COWAN: All right then, Harvey, go ahead. You can start.

BARDWELL: Yes.. okay... let's see. As you all know, I'm Harvey Bardwell...

OWSLEY: Is this going to take long?

COWAN: Let him speak, Owsley. You'll get your chance.

OWSLEY: I don't want to speak.

BARDWELL: I'm an author -- a few of you might remember contributing some very salutary quotes for my "Tilting at Windmills, A Conservative Gadfly Takes on Washington." Plus I'm a lecturer, not so much anymore. When I'm called, I go. The money's good -- not as good as it used to be, but good...

PAISLEY: You're digressing, Harvey.

BARDWELL: Sorry. Okay. I've been married -- twice. First one ended in divorce. The second one is in the courts right now. I've been on this show for nearly eight years, as well as a couple of other political talk shows which I can't mention here.

OWSLEY: Go ahead, Harv. I doubt if you'll get in much trouble now.

BARDWELL: All right. Well, for four years I was on "Washington Watch" on ABC, and, like Marguerite, I was a panelist on "Capital Chronicles" on NBC and "News Crunch" on CNN. So, I've been pretty active. And I feel like I'm still a vital part of the scene here in Washington, and that I belong. I've been here for years... it would be a shame to... well, to end it all like this.

OWSLEY: Stop, you're killing me.

MARTIN: I won't vote for you, Harvey, don't worry.

BARDWELL: Thank you, Cicero.

COWAN: Are you through?

BARDWELL: Yes, I guess so.

COWAN: Cicero Martin, why don't you go next.

MARTIN: Well, this won't take long. I'll be blunt and to the point. I need the money. Really. I'm desperate. I'm begging, okay?

PAISLEY: We all need the money.

OWSLEY: You're going to have to dig a little deeper than that, Cicero.

MARTIN: Oh, it's not just the money. There are a lot of other things. Personal stuff.

OWSLEY: Out with it.

COWAN: Don't push him, Owsley. He doesn't have to say a thing.

MARTIN: Well, I'd rather not go into any detail, but, believe me, it's a mess.

PAISLEY: Sounds bad, Cicero.

MARTIN: I'll tell you, in private.

COWAN: Marguerite Paisley. It's your turn.

PAISLEY: I need more time.

COWAN: You don't have much. Ainsley Owsley?


COWAN: Any last... comments?

OWSLEY: No. This is ridiculous. Oh, all right, I'll say something. As long as we're actually going through with this. As long as we're actually going to decide which one of us -- "goes" -- then I think you should all remember something. That Professor Ginzburg you were talking about? He's gone. He's no longer with us. And you know why? Because Cicero ate him!


OWSLEY: You ate him, Cicero. Don't deny it.

MARTIN: You're mad.

OWSLEY: I don't think so. You ate the professor. For breakfast. You've still got the stain on your tie.

MARTIN: This is ridiculous. Just ridiculous. I respected the professor. He was a brilliant man, a great scholar, knew the law inside out. A bit argumentative, a bit abrasive maybe...

COWAN: Enough. Let's vote.

PAISLEY: Wait -- I haven't had a chance to speak.

COWAN: Pardon me, Marguerite. Of course. Go ahead, say some nice things about yourself.

PAISLEY: Well, I just want to say this: I won't be railroaded, okay? I'm a lot younger than all of you, and... well, I'm also the only woman, and --

COWAN: Hold it. Since when does Marguerite Paisley use her gender to plea for mercy?

OWSLEY: He's right. It won't wash, Marguerite.

PAISLEY: And since when do you, you scheming turncoat, kiss up to Ray Cowan, the voice of unreason?

OWSLEY: Ray's not so bad, Marguerite. Once you get to know him.

PAISLEY: Know him?

OWSLEY: Yeah. He's a sham, but he's a well-meaning one.

PAISLEY: I don't like what I'm hearing. Does this mean you might...

OWSLEY: Might what? I can be bribed you know.

BARDWELL: It's time to vote, Ray.

COWAN: Right you are, Harvey. All right, everyone. Put a hand behind your back.

PAISLEY: Now, Ray? This is it?

COWAN: What's the matter, Marguerite? You want to make a phone call?

BARDWELL: I hope you understand, all of you, what this means. We're voting to condemn one of our colleagues to death. Metaphorically, at least.

(The lights come back up.)

COWAN: Enough metaphors. Hands behind backs. Owsley, you're one. Marguerite, two. Cicero, three. Harvey, four. Let's go, one hand behind the back. Close your eyes. I will say, "Ready... Set... Go!" -- when I say "Go!" you will each swing your hand around --

MARTIN: Wait! My wife caught me in bed with the delivery boy from the dry cleaners. She got the whole thing on tape. If I don't come up with a large cash settlement to get her barracudas off my back I'll be in jail, or dead.

COWAN: Ready...

BARDWELL: I've got two kids at Dartmouth. Do you know how much that costs?

MARTIN: Please, please...

COWAN: ... set...

OWSLEY: I don't care what happens... I really don't.

PAISLEY: Then I shouldn't feel bad voting for you.

OWSLEY: You wouldn't --


(The stage goes dark. Then, after a while, we hear distant tribal drums, a scream, silence, a loud burp, and then a long silence. And then, the spotlight hits RAY COWAN.)

COWAN: Good evening. I'm Ray Cowan, and this is "The Gang of Four" for January the Sixteenth, 1992.

(The lights come up, revealing the same set, but only four people sitting around the coffee table: COWAN; HARVEY BARDWELL; AINSLEY OWSLEY; and MARGUERITE PAISLEY. The same theme music plays itself up and out.)

COWAN: Page One: This week President Bush promised to veto the foreign aid bill. Is he right or wrong? Harvey Bardwell.

BARDWELL: The American public is fed up with these handouts.

COWAN: Marguerite Paisley -- you agree?

PAISLEY: Of course not. We have to help. It's in our best interest.

(The lights begin to fade.)

COWAN: You're saying our survival is linked to theirs?

PAISLEY: Absolutely.

COWAN: Ainsley Owsley?

OWSLEY: George Bush has no understanding of the immense human suffering he'll cause by this veto. He'd rather bail out his golf-playing cronies than feed the hungry masses of eastern Europe.

(The stage is now completely dark.)

COWAN: Page Two: Last week the House wrangled with the issue of affirmative action, the liberal panacea for all our social ills. Ainsley Owsley, your view on quotas.

OWSLEY: I'm in favor of them.

COWAN: Explain.

OWSLEY: Well, for one thing, without quotas, Marguerite wouldn't be here.

PAISLEY: He's probably right.

BARDWELL: Excuse me... I'm sorry, I don't feel too well... Could we... stop?

OWSLEY: What's wrong, Harv? Upset stomach?

PAISLEY: Ray, stop the tape. Ray? Stop the tape. Stop the tape, Ray.

The End.

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