The Journey: A Play in One Act

Liz, Marlon, Michael

An Epic Journey of Discovery, and Fried Chicken.

Manolo says, from the Guardian:

It may well be the most outlandish road trip since the wheel was invented: a cross-country dash featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The trio reportedly took turns driving, with Brando allegedly fueling himself on a diet of junk food.

Details of the trip emerged in a Vanity Fair interview with Tim Mendelson, Taylor’s former personal assistant. It came about after Jackson invited the two Hollywood actors to be his guests at a pair of concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden in early September 2001. Following the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the subsequent grounding of all internal flights, the trio were forced to find alternative transport back to the west coast. Mendelson claims they wound up driving a modest rental car all the way to Ohio – a distance of more than 500 miles.

The Journey: A Play in One Act

Scene I: Somewhere in western New Jersey, a 1998 Ford Taurus GL speeds down the highway. Michael Jackson is driving, Marlon Brando is in the front passenger’s seat, Elizabeth Taylor in the back.

Elizabeth: I’m not pouting.

Marlon: (rolls eyes dramatically)

Elizabeth: It’s a matter of fairness and respect. After all, I am Dame Elizabeth Taylor.

Marlon: (sighs theatrically)

Elizabeth: I don’t care about your “rules”. (makes air quotes) If you were a gentlemen, you’d let me sit in the front, that’s all I have to say…if you were a gentleman, you’d let me sit in the front.

Marlon: (turning to Michael). You heard me say it, didn’t you Bubbles?

Michael: (hunched over, his knuckles gripped tightly around the wheel, says nothing.)

Elizabeth: Well, I did not hear you say it.

Marlon: (grimaces energetically)

Elizabeth: You said nothing. You just walked up, jerked open the door and got in. You left me standing there with my luggage, fifteen pieces of custom Vuitton, in the parking lot at Hertz. You said nothing. You just got in the front seat.

Marlon: You heard me say it.

Elizabeth: No, I did not.

Marlon: You heard it.

Elizabeth: No.

Marlon: You heard me say it, and I know you did. But if it makes you happy, I’ll say it again: (shouts) SHOTGUN! Shotgun! Shotgun! Shotgun!

Elizabeth: (pouts in stunned silence)

Michael: (quietly) Uh oh. I think I just missed the turn.


Scene II: Drive through window, KFC, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Marlon is driving, Liz is sitting in the front passenger seat, Michael, wrapped in a blanket like E.T. is huddled in the back.

Marlon: (speaking into intercom): And a chicken poppers Happy Meal with a milk.

KFC Cashier: (from intercom) For a boy or a girl.

Marlon: A boy.

Michael: Wait, ask what the toy is.

Marlon: What’s the toy?

KFC Cashier: Batman for the boys, Powerpuff Girls for the girls.

Michael: Powerpuff Girls!

Marlon: A girls meal, please.

KFC Cashier: Okay, I’ve got a 10-piece Original Recipe, a 10-piece Extra Crispy, A grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo, a large side of mashed-potatoes and gravy, a large side of cole slaw, a dozen biscuits, an extra large Coke, and a Girls Kids Meal with a milk. Is that it?

Marlon: Are you sure you don’t want anything, Liz?

Scene III: Interstate 80, near State College, Pennsylvania. Liz is driving, Michael is huddled in the passenger seat, Marlon is in the back.

All: Sixty-three bottles of beer on the wall, sixty-three bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, sixty-two bottles of beer on the wall.

Scene IV: Interstate 80, near Youngstown, Ohio. Michael is again driving, but both Marlon and Elizabeth are sitting in the back seat. On Marlon’s head is a red-and-white laurel wreath, fashioned from the bottom of a KFC bucket.

Marlon: …. O sun! thy uprise shall I see no more;
Fortune and Antony part here; even here
Do we shake hands. All come to this? The hearts
That spaniel’d me at heels, to whom I gave
Their wishes, do discandy, melt their sweets
On blossoming Cæsar; and this pine is bark’d,
That overtopp’d them all. Betray’d I am.
O this false soul of Egypt! this grave charm,
Whose eyes beck’d forth my wars, and call’d them home,
Whose bosom was my crownet, my chief end,
Like a right gipsy, hath, at fast and loose,
Beguil’d me to the very heart of loss.
What, Eros! Eros!

(aside) Enter Cleopatra.

Ah! thou spell. Avaunt!

Elizabeth: Why is my lord enrag’d against his love?

Marlon: Vanish, or I shall give thee thy deserving,
And blemish Cæsar’s triumph. Let him take thee,
And hoist thee up to the shouting plebeians;
Follow his chariot, like the greatest spot
Of all thy sex; most monster-like, be shown
For poor’st diminutives, for doits; and let
Patient Octavia plough thy visage up
With her prepared nails.

(aside) Exit Cleopatra

Tis well thou’rt gone,
If it be well to live; but better ’twere
Thou fell’st into my fury, for one death
Might have prevented many. Eros, ho!
The shirt of Nessus is upon me; teach me,
Alcides, thou mine ancestor, thy rage;
Let me lodge Lichas on the horns o’ the moon;
And with those hands, that grasp’d the heaviest club,
Subdue my worthiest self. The witch shall die:
To the young Roman boy she hath sold me, and I fall
Under this plot; she dies for ’t. Eros, ho!

Elizabeth: (clapping) Oh, Marlon, that was marvelous! Truly marvelous. You still have it, darling, you really do.

Marlon: Thank you. As do you, my dear Liz.

Elizabeth: But my part in that scene was so small.

Marlon: It was the pivotal moment, the key to the whole thing. (To Michael) Am I right, Bubbles?

Michael: (hunched over steering wheel, knuckles white with tension, says nothing.)

Marlon: Her beauty is the instigating cause of everything. The play hinges upon it.

Elizabeth: (sighs) Shakespeare had no understanding of women.

Marlon: (startled) What?

Elizabeth: Cleopatra just stands around being talked about. (mimics Marlon’s voice) Enter Cleopatra…exit Cleopatra.

Marlon: Don’t tell me you actually prefer that Caesars Palace, Las Vegas version, with the phony Nile barges and a thousand showgirls in Egyptian costumes.

Elizabeth: How dare you!

Marlon: And those nancies, Rex Harrison and Dick Burton. (mimics Richard Burton) Your tongue is old, but sharp, Cicero. Be careful how you wag it. One day it will cut off your head.

Elizabeth: (shouting) Stop the car! Stop the car! Michael, stop the car, I’m getting out!

Michael: (quietly) Uh oh. I think I just missed the turn.