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FADE UP ON:
Larry's dressing room backstage at the Generation Game
Larry applies make-up. The music from 'Death In Venice' plays
GRAYSON [VOICE-OVER] (his voice is sepulchral):
How did I reach this point? Every week 36 million eyes pour love upon me and beseech it in return. I am unmoved. Cold does not freeze me and fire does not warm me. Every week I act out this empty charade. The show must go on. It depends on me. They need me, me alone.
[ISLA St. CLAIR appears in the open doorway]
ISLA (with hatred): Larry.
GRAYSON (with venom): Isla.
GRAYSON (at a passing stagehand, snarling): Shut that door!
VOICE-OVER: No... not just me alone.
I look back upon my life, the paths untaken. So many hopes, so many dreams.
It was different in the early days...
A packed working men's club. Smoke, hubbub. On the cramped stage a YOUNG GRAYSON is mincing around in drag.
YOUNG LARRY: Ooh, I've come over all limp!
The working men roar
I had a fire then. I thought I could reach the people, show them their own lives, but redeemed, purified through art. I felt I was part of a line reaching back to Moliere and Aristophanes.
Backstage at the working men's club, YOUNG LARRY barges excitedly into a dingy dressing room. BERNARD MANNING is sitting there reading Proust and weeping quietly to himself.
YOUNG LARRY: That was fantastic! I really connected with them! What you always talked about, abolishing the distance between performer and audience, I felt it!
MANNING (pulling himself together): M'dear boy, felicitations. I knew you would get there.
But a word of caution, if I may presume to speak in loco parentis for a moment. Comedy... comedy is the great bitch-goddess. You must devote yourself to her entirely, or she will devour you.
YOUNG LARRY: The owner wants to book me for three months! You know what this means! We can afford to put on Beckett like we always wanted!
MANNING squeals with joy and raises his eyebrows in astonishment. His monocle falls out.
But it was not to be.
Rehearsals on the stage of a little arty theatre. A DIRECTOR, holding a script, is glancing at his watch and fuming. MANNING is wedged into a barrel. There is an empty one next to him.
YOUNG LARRY dashes on stage breathlessly.
DIRECTOR: Where the hell have you been?
LARRY: The BBC... they want me to present the Generation Game.
I had to say yes. You can see that, can't you?
(Pleadingly, to Manning):
Tell me you understand!
MANNING: Get out of my sight.
[He lashes out towards Grayson angrily, toppling the barrel over and rolling off the stage]
And so, I chose my path.
The Generation Game studio, now. Waving, smiling, Grayson walks out on stage to tumultuous cheers and applause. Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings plays. Slow-motion: shots of the many-headed monster that is the crowd. They love him, they hate him, they would tear him apart and eat him if they could. Slow motion shot of Grayson, flinging his arms wide in welcome, as if to embrace them all - then as the music reaches its tragic peak we hold it like that so it looks like he is crucified.
Larry with a contestant playing the conveyor belt game.
Cuddly toy... Sandwich toaster... Wine decanter...
[The words 'Wine decanter' echo significantly as we CUT TO
GRAYSON in his dressing room upending a bottle of wine down his neck, then hurling it to smash against a wall and roaring. Cowering in the background is a producer and the scriptwriting team, two fresh-faced young Oxbridge boys.
GRAYSON (loud and angry): I want to be doing the scores on the doors! That bitch is padding her part again. What do we need her for? This is Larry Grayson's Generation Game!
PRODUCER: We think you make a good team. She's popular with -
GRAYSON: Popular? Popular? Comedy isn't about being popular. It's about a pitiless lacerating honesty.
That bit from The Generation Game where Larry made a clay pot and it went horribly wrong. The audience laugh like drains.
The audience, the audience, the endless audience, again in slow-motion, looking like a sea of biting piranha mouths as they cackle. Are they laughing with him or at him?
Backstage. Larry storms into a conference room and yells at the scriptwriters.
GRAYSON: Very funny. Very funny. Which smart-arse thought of that one? I make a pot and it all goes pear-shaped. You're getting at me, aren't you? That's a metaphor for my career, isn't it?
(The scriptwriters hang their heads and look ashamed)
A montage of Larry wandering the streets at night, forlorn beneath the pitiless neon. The theme from 'Midnight Cowboy' plays.
Larry pacing up and down in his agent's office, chewing him out.
GRAYSON: You're not pushing me! I'm not interested in opening fetes. I want to be doing Beckett, Ionesco, Brecht.
And another thing. I want to come out. I'm sick of living a lie.
I'm gay! Gay, I tell you, gay! I want people to know that!
(Agent stares open-mouthed.)
Larry opening a village fete, in slow motion. Everyone cheers and applauds. The music from The Deer Hunter plays.
Larry on the phone to his agent.
GRAYSON: Panto? PANTO? I shit on your panto!
I want the big roles! The parts that reach people! Something I can connect with!
I want to play... I want to play Jesus!
A sequence showing awards, nice furniture, and big wads of money piling up in his front room. Larry stares at them and does not look happy. The sad harmonica song from the prison camp scene in 'The Good The Bad And The Ugly' plays.
LARRY'S AGENT on the phone.
All right. I've got you an offer to play Jesus in the Oberammergau Passion Play.
But there's one condition.
They want Isla St Clair to play Mary.
LARRY, staring at his phone, stricken, appalled. He puts it down slowly then solemnly goes and shoots up with heroin.
Larry onstage in a theatre as a pantomime dame.
GRAYSON: Oh, no it isn't!
AUDIENCE: OH, YES IT IS!
GRAYSON suddenly stops and hangs his head.
GRAYSON: I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.
I can't go on with this.
What does it all mean?
What does any of it mean? We are born, we don't know why; we grow, we stagnate, we are cut down like weeds.
It means nothing. Nothing.
AUDIENCE: OH, YES IT DOES!
The Generation Game set. Larry and a contestant are playing the conveyor belt game again. Larry suddenly groans.
GRAYSON: The greed! I can't take the greed!
(Starts hurling prizes at contestant.)
Take the cuddly toy! Take the teasmade! Take the sandwich toaster! Take the carriage clock! Do you think they'll make you happy? I despise you!
(Strangles contestant. Stage-hands try to pull him off. Technical difficulties card appears.)
Moorland, night. The stagehands bury the contestant in a shallow grave.
We pan along. There are several grave mounds already.
Soho. A kinky SM nightclub. Larry, Molly Sugden, and the pantomime horse from Rentaghost are on the shark together, all seeking to dull their terrible existential pain.
The next morning, the wreckage of a bedroom, a post-orgiastic pile of comatose naked bodies. Larry is still awake and licking a mirror that may have grains of coke left on it.
GRAYSON (bleakly): ...and the man says, 'But doctor, I am Pagliacci!'
Huh. Story of my life.
The panto horse off Rentaghost whinnies understandingly.
GRAYSON being interviewed by Michael Parkinson (who is also concealing a terrible pain beneath his cheery veneer.)
GRAYSON: To tell the truth, I can't be bothered with any of that palaver. I'd rather have a nice cup of tea than sex any day.
GRAYSON at home that night, grimacing wildly as he sticks his dick into a boiling hot cup of tea.
Larry backstage at the studios. He wears dark glasses to disguise - a hangover? drug jag? He is so out of things he has to be wheeled to his dressing room on a trolley. Once there stagehands jump-start his brain with car batteries attached to his temples.
Larry on set again, saying 'Shut that door!'
Dream sequence. A heavy door marked 'ART' slams definitively shut.
Again we cut back to Larry saying 'Shut that door!'
Cut back to inside his mind. A door marked 'INTEGRITY' slams shut.
Once more we see Larry saying, 'Shut that door!'
Cut to, a door marked 'HOPE' slamming shut. It reverberates for ages.
Exterior, night. A thunderstorm. GRAYSON, dishevelled and desperate, is running through the darkness and rain. He comes to a set of huge iron gates, ajar, with the silhouette of a crouching man with an arm flexed towards a prominent chin wrought into them. He barges through, pounding up the drive - slipping, staggering, scattering gravel - towards a neglected-looking gothic manor-house. We do not know it yet, but this is Bruce Forsyth's mansion.
He hammers on the doors. One of them creaks open. He flings himself inside.
Inside, in the empty hall. There is no light save from a cobwebbed candelabra standing in a corner and flashes of lightning from outside. In the middle of one of these, Larry throws back his head and bellows:
GRAYSON: FORSYTH! FOOOOOOOORSYYYYYYTH!
Grabbing the candelabra, he pounds up the stairs and up and down corridors, wrenching doors open and looking inside. The whole house is darkened, bare, neglected. There are cobwebs, mice, oil paintings hung upside down. Fitful flashes of illumination from the lightning outside. He keeps shouting, 'FORSYTH! FORSYTH!' with a mixture of pleading agony and angry accusation.
He wrenches open another door, pauses as he stares inside. CUT TO his POV:
The room beyond is as bare to the floorboards as all the others, but is illuminated by stubs of candles on the floor arranged in a pentagram around what looks to be a bison's skull. All over the walls, ceiling, and floor, someone has daubed, frenziedly, in - red paint? or blood? - over and over again, the words:
THE CONVEYOR BELT ONLY GOES ONE WAY
It is repeated a hundred times or more, criss-crossing itself, sometimes in foreign languages, morse code, semaphore.
Cut to Larry's widened, horrified eyes as he takes this in.
He flees from the room in horror.
Again he runs through empty passages. He looks around for some clue. There is a brief sound of something that may be Gregorian chanting. Suddenly three short hooded figures like monks cross the end of the passage ahead of him in a flash of lightning. He races that way. When he gets there, there is no sign of them.
There is a sound of laughter, horrible, frenzied. Wide-eyed, Larry pursues it to the end of another corridor. It is coming from behind some velvet-curtains. He wrenches them aside. Jarring close-up, the camera askew: there is a fairground Laughing Clown machine behind, the horrible mechanical doll with its wide mouth rocking back and forth as it cackles jeeringly. Another CU reaction shot of Larry's terrified eyes as he backs away and runs.
He pounds up another flight of stairs to the next floor.
Suddenly a rubber ball comes bouncing out of a passageway. Larry jumps. A child comes running after it.
Except it is not a child, we see in a flash of lightning. It is a middle-aged female dwarf in stockings and suspenders and a studded leather bikini. Her face is caked with make-up. She leers at Larry terribly and says something in an incomprehensible language.
He pushes past her and down the passage. Other dwarves emerge from doorways, jumping up and down and clapping their hands to see the stranger. Male and female alike, they all wear garish make-up and stockings or kinky boots and leather or PVC bikinis. They writhe against him, lascivious grins on their wizened faces. As they leer and jeer they speak in Flemish ('Would you like to rub me for luck, beautiful sir?' 'Why did you come here?' 'Turn back' 'You should have listened to your mother' 'Hump your leg for a penny, sir' although we don't understand it.) Appalled, Larry pushes and kicks his way through them.
Larry framed in a door he has flung open. At last he has run his quarry to ground.
It is the master-bedroom, almost as dilapidated as the rest of the house. Pan round from Larry, then a slow tracking-shot through, and a sequence of intercut close-up vignettes of, ghastly scenes of decadence, lit by lightning or flickering candles: two sex-dwarves lying in a pile of baked beans, licking them off each other; another one, naked apart from a swimming cap and a rubber bathing-ring, splashes in a child's paddling-pool, dancing round and round in a circle reciting a nursery rhyme backwards; another lies nude on a bearskin rug playing with a yo-yo and winking at Larry, etc. There is an eerie musical accompaniment from dozens of music-boxes and Fisher-Price toys, which litter the room, all playing at once.
Finally, in a four-poster bed with its posts askew, there is BRUCE FORSYTH, a terrible raddled figure in a gown and nightcap out of Dickens.
Larry dashes up to him and grabs him by the lapels.
GRAYSON: Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you warn me? Why didn't you tell me what it was like?
FORSYTH (whispering; his voice is incredibly old and seems to come from very far away):
No-one can tell you. You have to find out for yourself. You have to go there to come back.
GRAYSON (shaking him): How do you come back? HOW DO YOU COME BACK?
FORSYTH (in a dying croak): You never come back.
He suddenly cackles lustily and loudly.
FORSYTH (with vigour): You never come back!
(He jumps up and grabs hold of Larry. Dementedly:)
FORSYTH: You never come back! You never come back! You never come back!
He bounces up and down on the bed, clapping his hands, night-shirt flying up so you can see his bollocks, and starts to chant 'You never come back, you never come back' over and over. The dwarves join in too. LARRY backs away in terror. The whole demented crew advance on him. Larry backs into a corner and sinks down into a cowering foetal ball. CUT TO: his POV: shot from the floor of Forsyth and the half-naked sex-dwarves bearing down on him grinning and chanting. They stand over him looking down at him with sinister leers and a dwarf pours a tin of baked-beans all over him as his scream rings out.
Fade up on:
Larry onstage at a comedy club, doped-up and overweight, naked apart from a raincoat. The audience are restless, silent save for embarrassed coughs.
GRAYSON: Yeah... fucking Thatcher... oh, she's really... what was I saying?
Do Slack Alice!
(Others, 'Yes!' 'Do Everard!' 'Say Shut That Door!')
GRAYSON: I don't do bits!
I'm not a comedian. I'm Larry Grayson. I'm The Truth.
A junkyard. Incredibly bleak. LARRY and ISLA glare at each other.
ISLA: Right. Let's settle this once and for all.
LARRY: Ready when you are, bitch.
They both pick up long iron bars and attempt to beat each other to death with them for ten minutes. They are bloody and battered and have broken bones protruding but neither can quite manage to kill the other. Snarling and panting, they discard their weapons and grab new ones, Isla a length of chain which she uses to flail Larry over the head with, Larry a rusty harpoon he attempts to impale her with.
Suddenly Larry gains the advantage. He throws a rock at Isla's head and in dodging it she trips over backwards and lands on a conveyor-belt leading to a deadly metal-crushing machine. Cackling, Larry stabs her through the shoulder, pinning her there. Shrieking, Isla tries to wrench the harpoon out but can't. Laughing insanely, Larry stands over her in triumph, waving goodbye as she trundles towards the machine's maw. Close-up of his gloating face, free at last. Then there's a click. He looks down in surprise. It is Isla's turn to laugh hysterically. Cut to the reason: her length of chain is a set of shackles. She has fastened one end to herself and the other round his wrist. He is dragged along after her towards the ore-crusher.
ISLA: We are chained together! You can't kill me without killing yourself!
Frantically, he starts to chew his own hand off, but he will never be able to gnaw through the sinew and bone in time.
With a final sky-splitting shriek of defeat he pulls the harpoon from Isla and drags her off the conveyor-belt.
They collapse, sobbing, and hold each other, reconciled to their fate.
Seagulls wheel and shriek overhead, and shit on them.
Their sobs subside. A quiet resignation comes over them.
LARRY (softly): What did you want to do, Isla?
ISLA: Sing Scottish folk songs. And of course play Medea.
Have you ever been happy?
GRAYSON: Once... a long time ago...
The young Larry is onstage with Bernard Manning. Cut to Close-Up of Manning, in soft-focus, smiling and benevolent as he regards Larry. The crowd roars at some sally, the two of them hug. Music: James Blunt sings:
And though time goes by
I will always be
In a club with you
The bedroom of an echoing mansion, some years later. There are showbiz awards all around the room but they are neglected and dusty.
An old and withered Larry is prostrate in bed, the life almost gone from him. He is staring rapt at a snowstorm paperweight in his hand.
The door opens. A dwarf in bondage gear enters carrying soup and bread on a tray.
SEX-DWARF (in Flemish, but with subtitles): Please, Master, you must try to eat something.
Larry's arm flops over the side of the bed and the paperweight drops from his hand and rolls off. CU as it stops: inside the snowstorm is a fat, jolly, smiling snowman that looks somehow familiar.
CU of Larry's mouth: with his final breath:
GRAYSON (whispers): Berrrnard...
The dwarf sets down the tray, solemnly bends over Larry's mouth and listens. He sighs deeply, and closes Larry's eyelids.
DWARF (in Flemish): Now your ordeal is over.
Shaking his head sadly, he takes a pair of pliers and starts to wrench Larry's gold teeth out.
Fade to black.
Larry Grayson died in 1995.
After The Generation Game ended he had spent the last ten years of his life starring in panto.
He never realised his dream of performing Beckett.
However, his production of Sartre's No Exit was a smash at the Blackpool Hippodrome the year before his death.
It co-starred Isla St Clair.
[Credit music: Dido's Lament]