The 13th Floor

Mar 29

13thfloor.jpgEvery writer has a “bad story” story. This is mine.

Back in the day, I co-wrote, along with a friend as misguided as I, an unsolicited script for a radio show. We called it The 13th Floor, and since we didn’t know what we were doing, the title was probably the best thing about it.

We were young and we needed the money.

My friend Mary & I, who collaborated on this brilliant piece of literature (NOT), both had small apartments in the same building.

How small were they, Johnny?

They were so small that you had to go outside to close the door. That’s an old joke, and no, I don’t get it either. Just trust me, these apartments weren’t spacious.

Anyway, we wrote this play for a new show that was trying to bring back radio drama. It didn’t work: the show or the play. But miracle of miracles, the producer actually bought our script for the incredible sum of $200 ($100 clams each!) for all rights. All right!

When we heard the news, we whooped and hollered and rolled around on the floor, although you couldn’t do all that much rolling on a rug that was more like a bath mat. Still, we were as happy as two unpublished writers who were about to be published could possibly be.

And then (dramatic organ music here) tragedy struck . .  .

A few weeks later, those bastards at the network (does that phrase sound familiar?) withdrew their offer. Just like that, with some flimsy excuse or other. Bankruptcy? Death? An Act of God? No explanation could possibly have satisfied us, or dulled our pain, but we were too shocked to protest very much.

Things couldn’t get any worse for our two young heroines, but of course they did.
(Music gets more dramatic.)

A few weeks after they told us they weren’t buying our story (well, we weren’t buying theirs either), we were listening to the show —  and we heard a version of our script being broadcast on the air! Our idea! Our script, well, sorta. Okay, It might have been a better version, written by more experienced writers  — but it was our idea! And don’t forget, we were young and needed the money!!

Alas, we were also too inexperienced in the Ways of the World (why didn’t we sue?) to fight this thing. We let it go, and as we say these days, we moved on. And little by little it faded from our memories. For years, though, we celebrated Veteran’s Day together, feeling that we were now survivors of a war of sorts: the Davidettes against Goliath. And this time, as in most of life as we had come to know it, Goliath most definitely won.

So, after all this, why am I not bitter?

(Organ music gets dreamy and upbeat.)

To this day, I remember in vivid detail how happy we were to have sold that script. In my mind’s eye, I can see that little apartment, the sycamore tree (the one that grows in Brooklyn although this was Manhattan) framed in the catty-corner window, the Murphy Kitchen, the red ratty rug, and especially the whooping and rolling around on the floor in pure joy.

elevator13button.jpgOn the other hand, I don’t recall much of the bad stuff: including the script itself or the details of how it all played out, so to speak. I don’t even remember if those dastardly bastards even bothered to change the title, or if they had the gall to use that too.

The other day in the elevator of my building, which ironically is just a few blocks away from the brownstone where I lived back then, someone got in on the 13th floor, and because I know he’s an actor, I told him I had once written a play called The 13th Floor.

“Good title,” he said. Little did he know . . .

Did YOU know about the rock group in the 60s called the 13th Floor Elevators?
And yes, they had their ups and downs . . . but their music lives on today.
Although not on elevators.

One comment

  1. Like it a lot. Not as humorous as some, but not intended to be.
    It is well that some bad things happen to us when we’re young, when we are better
    able to bounce back.
    And look back without being bitter.

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