In recent past issues of Scene4 I presented sequential scenes from my screenplay THE GODDESS IN EXILE, a fictionalized account of the brief life of Cuban born artist Ana Mendieta that deals with themes of wife murder, the natural versus the man-made world and the mythic feminine. Ana Mendieta’s death at age 36 became a scandal that rocked the art world at its zenith making headlines. My screenplay adapts the basic story of Ana’s (Elvira) alleged murder by her husband, prominent minimalist artist Carl Andre (Hans), who was acquitted by a judge without a jury and explores the premise ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. The action takes place in the vivid milieu of the New York City art scene in the 1970's, capturing the excitement of the elite intelligentsia with character vignettes from the highest echelons of American
artists and art world doyennes.
In the following scenes Hans who has cash from an art sale offers to buy a ticket for Elvira to visit her father in Peru. But when his young friend Tony tells him he’s broke and his wife pregnant, Hans gives him the money showing he cares more about his reputation with his peers than his wife. Being an expert on the art market with a sharp eye, when Hans sees Tony’s work he is able to advise him on how to change his work to make it marketable. Because most of the artists at that time were calculating, Hans advice is accurate and helps Tony become successful.
Every Friday night people would come to Max’s with lists of loft parties – parties in huge spaces with lots of booze, drugs and dancing. We would gather in crowds walking through desolate neighborhoods from loft to loft party until the wee hours of the morning. In this scene when Tony and Hans head to Fanelli’s, a corner bar in Soho where the die-hard alcoholics hung out, there they meet Buck Klein loosely based on Robert deKooning walking the streets of Tribeca smashed. At Finelli’s Hans spots his face in the bar’s mirror and sees a vision of despair that scares him. His good friend Frank senses his anxiety and tells him that if he ever needs help he’s there for him.
The two New York City downtown bars mentioned in this scene, the CEDAR TAVERN and FANELLI’S were iconic hangouts that shared a unique time in history when influential artists and writers met and shared radical ideas. Fanelli’s, still thriving in Soho marked by a neon sign on a corner at 94 Prince Street, opened in 1847 and was a speakeasy during prohibition. In the 1970s before Soho became a mecca of high-end street boutiques, the artists who lived nearby congregated with derelicts and local people in booze-induced
At the CEDAR TAVERN on 24 University Place NYC near 8th street from 1945 to 1963, regulars included beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg as well as famous abstract expressionist painters – Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollack, William deKooning, Mark Rothko and Franz Klline. Legends grew from stories – one of how Kerouac was kicked out because he peed in an ashtray. These artists were heavy drinkers with giant egos who would sit in booths for extended intellectual debates. The curators who handle their work now would probably not have been welcome at their tables. Authentic art comes from gifted and courageous minds, not Ivy League degrees. Curators today try to decide what statement art should make and find work to back up their premise to make sure the garbage they choose suits the cultural agenda and warehouse spaces their institutions provide.
SCENES FROM “THE GODDESS IN EXILE”
98 - EXT. NYC STREET - EARLY EVENING
HANS and ELVIRA walk arm and arm up the street approaching MAX’s. ELVIRA holds HANS with her head on his chest.
ELVIRA'S (voice over)
After we decided to get married so spontaneously, a pattern started between us bothering me. Hans would make a big promise, build up my hopes, then betray me.
ELVIRA kisses HANS cheek.
...an airplane ticket to Peru to visit my father for his birthday - how wonderful! I miss him so much.
HANS puts his hand on his leather jacket over a bulge from the inside pocket.
It's all here, Babe - hard cash from a neat sale. We'll have a round at MAX’s and tomorrow...
99 - EXT. MAX’S - EARLY SPRING EVENING
Now in front of MAX’S, MICKEY pats HANS on the back.
HANS enters and is greeted by a crowd singing.
For he's a jolly good fellow.
HANS ducks through the crowd. He is greeted by DAVE, who pats him on the back and shakes his hand.
Another sale, huh.
A small one, but it's one more chip at the old block, right?
HANS (whispers in DAVE's ear)
Vaselli doesn't have to know.
ELVIRA sees JOANNE sitting at a booth with a couple of friends and saddles in next to her.
I'm so excited... Hans promised me a trip to Peru.
My father will be so happy to see me again...
The din in the bar quiets down. HANS sits at the bar talking to TONY.
I don't know where to take my art and if I don't make a sale, we'll both be out on the street. Sue's pregnant...
HANS puts his arm around TONY.
Take it easy kid. Let's have a look at your work. Come on...
As HANS and TONY get up to leave, HANS puts a couple hundred-dollar bills on the bar to cover the tab for the crowd. The bartender, GUS [an American Indian wearing perpetual smile and a bandanna across his forehead] puts the cash in the register that shuts with the SOUND of a loud ring.
100 - EXT. NYC TRIBECA STREETS - MIDNIGHT
HANS and TONY walk out of MAX’s and then down the streets of Tribeca.
HANS and TONY stroll down the dark streets. As they walk, HANS puts his arms around TONY'S shoulder. Two figures come towards them.
WEASEL [a good-looking 28 year old man, who is frail and poetic looking wearing a studied mixture of tattered clothing] tries to hold up drunk and staggering BUCK KLEIN [a man of about 65 with a handsome face with bloodshot eyes, strong build and bushy head of white hair]. BUCK leans on WEASEL who tries to get him to walk on his own.
Weasel - you are a Weasel aren't you? Let me see your face.
BUCK stares into WEASEL'S face. CLOSE UP of WEASEL then of BUCK.
You don't know who I am?
Sure I do, Buck. Where's the list?
The party list. It's Friday night.
I am Buck Klein, the greatest artist of this century. Every year I earn 6 zeros - 6 zeros...
Ya, that's in your name - Buck.
What do you mean?
Buck - Bucks...
Those young whipper snappers - they're all copycats - pansies - I was the first revolutionary abstract Expressionist pioneer... I’m going to the Cedar.
WEASEL sees HANS and TONY coming towards them.
Straighten up, Buck. You want don't want Hans to see you like this, do you?
HANS greets BUCK with a slap on the back and BUCK almost keels over.
BUCK (to HANS)
You brickhead - head full of bricks..
WEASEL (to TONY)
What's going on tonight? Where's the action?
TONY shrugs his shoulders then remembering pulls a piece of paper from his jacket pocket. WEASEL tries to read the paper and lets BUCK fall.
Tell them Buck said to let you in...
WEASEL tries to pick BUCK up.
Buck looks bad man, bad...
He's ok. He's got guts of steel. Let's have a nightcap – Finelli’s - on me...
TONY and HANS walk away leaving WEASEL to try to revive BUCK.
101 - INT. FINELLI’S - LOWER MANHATTAN - AFTER MIDNIGHT
[A corner bar designated by a bright neon sign, Finelli’s is a hang-out for the alcoholic sediments of the art scene.]
Men weaning scotches and smoking lean on the dark mahogany bar. In front of a long mirror DONNATO acts as bartender. [DONNATO, ROCKY'S owner, is a former boxer with sparkling eyes and a bulldog face]. As HANS and TONY enter, we hear the SOUND of dull mumbling, chairs scratching the floor and glasses clinking. The man closest to the door turns his head first and the rest follow in Busly-Birckley effect, until all the men are staring.
FRANK SMITH [a top artist who is a quintessential upper-class wasp man with straight sandy hair swept over his forehead and blue eyes, wearing a navy sweater and tan pants] stands behind the bar and greets HANS.
Hey, look who's coming up in the world...
And to what do I owe this honor that you should walk into my establishment?
Tony here is going to be a father...
DONNATO pours four scotches and hands one each to HANS, FRANK and TONY, then swigs one down himself. They toast.
To the future father!
As they toast, we see TONY'S, FRANK'S and HANS' smoky reflection in the bar mirror.
What brings you guys down here?
Frank, all day I've been dreaming about your face. I had to come down to see the real thing.
Well, I'll be...
Yes, dreaming of your face - that perfect amalgam of intelligence, grace and restraint. That shiny assemblage of wind battered hair - swept across your noble forehead and wondering why a blue-blooded man - such as yourself – would want to be an artist?
Because, Hans, I knew it would be the only way I would ever have the opportunity to kiss your beautiful puss.
FRANK gives HANS a kiss on the cheek.
HANS studies his reflection in the bar mirror and makes a gesture as if to wipe lipstick off his face. But as he looks in the mirror, the men around him disappear into smoke and his face appears alone in an expression of terror - a frozen moment. HOLD ON HANS. When the scene in the bar slowly reappears, FRANK senses HANS' anxiety.
Hans, kid, if you're ever in trouble, you can come to me. When push comes to shove, you may need a friend.
Thanks, Frank, I'll remember that.
TONY pulls HANS away. On the way out of the door, TONY gives the high-sign to DONNATO.
The din in the bar quiets down. HANS sits at the bar talking to TONY.
102 - INT. TONY'S LOFT - NIGHT
HANS and TONY enter TONY'S studio, which is sparsely furnished and filled with canvases of brown and gray sketchy nudes. TONY sits on a stool and offers HANS a cigarette. HANS accepts and TONY lights it for him. As HANS smokes, he inspects the paintings seriously, pulling out canvases to view others. HANS looks at the back of a canvas.
Our old alma mata - Kansas City Art Institute?
You know I graduated last year...
It shows. You know how to cover a canvas with paint, Tony, that's about it. Grey and baize - O.K. - stick with the color format.
TONY is all ears.
Take it to total abstraction or total realism - which way are you more comfortable with?
Start with diamond shapes first - gray and brown. I'll take a look in a month.
TONY looks relieved. HANS looks around again.
So how bad is your money situation, Tony? Sue's pregnant?
Ya, she's in her fourth month. I'm broke.
HANS pulls out his wallet and takes out all the money (a few thousand in hundreds). He hands it all to TONY who is astounded and refuses.
Ah, you'd do it for me, wouldn't you, Tone?
TONY reluctantly accepts the money.
O.K., for our baby.
TONY hugs HANS tightly.
103 - INT. HANS LOFT BEDROOM - VERY LATE NIGHT
HANS enters his loft bedroom and turns on a dim light. ELVIRA on the bed, rolls over.
What time is it?
You promised - we see the travel agent at 9.
HANS sits on the bed remembering his promise.
Sorry, I gave the money to Tony. Sue's having a baby.
ELVIRA squints her eyes, looks at him, rolls over and falls asleep.
ELVIRA and HANS bodies fade into the sheets. ELVIRA, sleepless stares out of the loft window at the night cityscape and watches dark clouds float over a full moon.