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Two Idiots In Hollywood

T. Barry Armstrong presents his film Two Idiots In Hollywood, in which a pair of idiots, Taylor and Murphy, move from Dayton, Ohio to Hollywood in search of greater fulfilment and more sex. While Murphy gets a job writing for TV, Taylor is arrested for the accidental murder of their new landlord.

 

A friend picked up a copy of Two Idiots from Cash Converters in Stourbridge in 2001 for £1.50, attracted to it purely by the title, and it quickly became a favourite. I found another copy for sale after a chance search on eBay. In my opinion, it is a brilliantly hilarious movie, with all the makings of a cult hit – minimal budget, minimal continuity, total farce. While many of the actors take on more than one role, other actors are the movie’s production staff! It’s also quite innovative, in what some might call a post-modern way, as the film is interrupted not only by its fictional director, but also by film critics (one of whom has the immortal name Loupenis Jones) who review the film! It is filled with original songs, including a barbershop number in the middle of a murder trial! There is also a level of clever satire. Love it or hate it, it is memorable.

 

Two Idiots on YouTube (and Vimeo)

When I set up my Two Idiots webpage in 2003, it was to fly the flag - a quite detailed flag - for something that seemed unlikely ever to get wide recognition. 11 years later, the entire film has been uploaded to YouTube by petey pablo. Although this isn't exactly legal, watching Two Idiots In Hollywood is a far better way to gain an appreciation than reading about it. Because I still want to stand up and be counted as a fan of Two Idiots though, I don't have any immediate plans to retire this part of my website.

If you're curious about the film but don't want to sit through all of it, this clip on Vimeo takes you straight to the climax. 

Characters

Taylor Dup (played by Jeff Doucette)

One of two idiots. His general idiocy and bemusement leaves him subject to his baser male instincts, such as the desires for beer and women. By way of a side-effect, his passive stance has given him great powers of observation, allowing him a prodigious talent for impersonations (including Elvis Presley, Ed Sullivan, and above all, the Wolf-Man). Loyal to his friend Taylor, he agrees to move from Dayton to Hollywood, where he feels able to fulfil his individual potential, by visiting waxwork museums to hone his impersonations and by scoring. His desire to help people leads to the accidental death of his new Landlord, and after a harrowing interrogation, he signs a confession in the hope of getting to know female prisoners. He is exonerated by the Landlord’s ghost, and observes that Murphy’s Pac-Man idea was plagiarism anyway. At the end, he is reunited with Murphy, and realises the importance of birds of a feather sticking together in the legal minefield of Hollywood, where only the purity of a bold approach to the silver screen, such as T. Barry Armstrong’s work, will really do.

"But you don’t understand. When the moon is full, I become a wolf."

Taylor’s prisoner number was 3685204 97.

Jeff Doucette is on Twitter

 

Murphy Wegg (played by J.B. McGrath)

One of two idiots. More active than Taylor, he strategises diligently and tries to make their double date run smoothly and successfully, but his general idiocy hampers this. Whenever Taylor and Murphy reach an understanding over women and scoring, they pretend to be ducks. Possessed of initiative and inspiration, and concerned that he will be ‘bottled up’ if carries on working at the Dayton Bottling Works, he proposes a movie from the repressive squalor of Dayton to the glamour of Hollywood, where he taps into a store of eloquence and inspiration, in order to impress the President of Television and the Boys from New York with his idea for The Pac-Man Comedy-Drama Hour. He takes a proud hands-on approach to the programme, joining the actors at rehearsal. He does not forget to capitalise on his position by attempting to score with the available females. After he is fired for being too stupid, he responds with shock and delusion, but realises that in the minefield of Hollywood TV stardom, friendship is what counts, and he rushes to Taylor’s trial. Retaining his initiative, he suggests new careers as DJs.

"One thousand dollars, s’il vous please."

There are several photographs of J.B. McGrath, among others, on the wall of the NBA Casting Room.

 

Howie Jett

Taylor and Murphy’s "gross" friend in Dayton, not seen during the film. Murphy phones him once they are settled in Hollywood.

 

Lynn Jett (played by Jenny Bourgeois)

Howie’s sister. Murphy elects for her to be Taylor’s date, as Murphy likes Lynn as a person and would therefore "find it hard to f--- her." Lynn is bored by Taylor’s impressions and scared by Murphy.

Scene R5M of the film, depicting Taylor and Murphy’s return from the date, was filmed on 10th September 1987, as revealed by one of the clapperboards which are occasionally caught in shot.

 

Marianne Plambo (played by Cheryl Anderson)

Lynn’s friend. According to Howie, she "goes easy" if pushed. She is unimpressed by her date, Murphy, and he does not score. This, Murphy believes, is because Lynn and Marianne are both having their periods, as happens when two girls are in the same place.

When Taylor and Murphy return from the date, a couple can be heard arguing about the husband staying out late, and like all arguments in the movie, it descends into an exchange of "f--- you!’ ‘f--- you!"

 

T. Barry Armstrong (played by Thomas Callaway)

A crusading visionary with all his fingers on the pulse of cinema, the man who through directing, editing and scripting, brought Two Idiots to fruition. We first see him caught on camera as he positions then adjusts the alarm clock, and he is visible during the Murphy’s entrance in the trial scene as well. Out of sheer loyalty to his audience, he appears several times during the film in order to humanise the moviemaking process, by explaining his triumphs and shortfalls, such as budget issues, legal matters, and scene losses. Armstrong publicises for his next venture, an even more richly thought-provoking 3-D film called The Robot From Outer Space.

"Film is one of the few art forms that deals with the past."

"Hey, I’m ready to make history. Are you?"

T. Barry can be glimpsed running across the aisle as Murphy enters in the courtroom scene.

On the wall of T. Barry’s office is a map charting Taylor and Murphy’s route from Dayton to LA.

 

Todd Armstrong (played by Bruce Wright)

T. Barry’s younger brother. A worthy compatriot who is allowed a measure of his sibling’s limelight, also appearing during the film. He is aware of mix of excitement and anxiety that belies the making of the movie, but lacks some of his brother’s maturity; at one point, he opens a door cheekily in Murphy’s face and knocks him out.

"They really screwed us up."

Todd’s self-introduction was filmed on 19th August 1987.

To emphasise the film’s lack of continuity, T. Barry and Todd go from bearded to clean-shaven, back to bearded, in their appearances.

 

Joc Jeremy, the Landlord (played by Robert Darnell)

Landlord at the apartment block at McAdam Place near Highland, Los Angeles. He likes Taylor and Murphy, whom he shows around an apartment that is identical to their Dayton flat. Plagued by a ruptured disk in his back, Joc laments the passing of his youth. After agitating his back, Taylor carries his new landlord to his flat and at his request, straps him into a chair to bring him out of spasm, but Joc dies when he Taylor forgets to unstrap him after half an hour. Having found posthumous tranquillity, Joc’s ghost appears at the courtroom just as Taylor is about to be convicted, and after defending him, Joc makes an impassioned speech against the avaricious dog eat dog world of Hollywood, and the warm wonder of youth.

"No! No doctors! No more f---ing doctors!"

"I remember, my warm body running in the breeze. Smelling mimosa. Drinking ice water. Thinking how high the tabletops were."

Mistake: Joc Jeremy’s necklace changes into a gold chain in the middle of his first scene, then changes back.

 

Man With Poodle (played by Phillip Ray Rolfe)

Dressed in pink, with a perm, this man stands outside Joc Jeremy’s apartment holding his dog as Taylor carries him in.

"How butch."

He is also one of the Big Men Big Women Dancers.

One of the signs on the noticeboard by the Landlord’s front door says ‘Absolutely No Prostitution’.

 

NBA Security Guards (played by Charles Allen-Anderson & Benjamin Jurand)

Employees in the reception area of the National Broadcasting Association. Allen-Anderson’s character is the more vociferous, complaining about his demanding ‘bitch’ of a girlfriend. Both admire Dan Skink, especially Jurand’s character.

"What a stud."

The same pair of actors were seen as Big Men Big Women dancers, and appear as the Buffet Chefs at Taylor’s trial.

 

Dan Skink (played by Budge Threlkeld)

 The President of Television at the NBA. He can generate an aura of machismo and authority, and is considered a stud by an NBA security guard. Skink is at the forefront of Hollywood’s quest for ‘good ideas’. He is unable to come up with any as the visit by the Boys From New York approaches, and becomes stressed about losing his job, and then about human indolence. By way of relaxation, his secretary fits him with a prosthetic face-piece. Skink welcomes Murphy’s good idea for television, and is elated at the vision of $40 billion, which may soon be is. He becomes irked at having to pay Murphy cash on demand.

"I think I need a great big blood transfusion. Or a hot coffee enema."

 

Nude chauffeur (played by Frederick Bailey)

Skink’s driver, naked except for a saucepan, and obedient. He is also on the jury at Taylor’s trial, and attracts the wandering hand of his female neighbour.

Frederick Bailey also plays the Robot from Outer Space, and is the Production Associate for Two Idiots.

 

Mrs. Higgens (played by Kat Sawyer-Young)

NBA casting secretary. Tries to help Dan Skink calm down by forcefully applying his face mask. She is the object of Murphy’s affections.

"There goes trouble-on-a-stick. Still, all in all, nice piece of horseflesh." - Murphy

"Don’t go too far away, Mrs. Higgens, I may need you later to take my dic… tation." – Murphy

In Skink’s office is a photograph of him holding a white poodle like the one seen outside Joc Jeremy’s apartment.

 

Skink’s child (played by Joshua Levy)

Boy of about 12, who has little faith in his father.

"It stinks, dad."

 

Perry White (played by Ritchie Montgomery)

The casino worker from Gardena and wannabe comedian is drawn to the National Broadcasting Association like a moth to the light bulb. Charismatic and flirtatious yet overzealous and irritating, the Comedian is more concerned with image than substance – he displays a giant poster-sized photograph of himself – and lacking a certain je ne sais what, is bypassed by Murphy on the ladder of success.

"Do you know anything about real estate? Tell me [points to crotch], is this a lot?"

"Hey! Did you hear about the ant on the commode? He got pissed off."

Ritchie Montgomery also plays Sergeant Rose.

 

NBA Casting Secretary (played by Lisa Lack Robins) & Actresses (played by Louise Baker, Carolyn English, Nancy Scher)

Present in the NBA Casting Room, and subjected to Perry White’s flirtatious wit as they try to read scripts. They are not impressed, and try to ignore him.

 

The Boys From New York: Wiler Weiner (played by William B. Steis), Mel Davis (played by Paul Koester), Morris Franklin (played by Ann Hearn)

TV executives who visit Skink at 4 o’clock, to get a good idea for television. They agree to Murphy’s Pac-Man Show idea, and hire Joe Clark and Winn Kaalsen. Mel Davis visits the rehearsals with Murphy. Remaining in overall charge, they later fire Murphy.

"Enchiladas."

William B. Steis is also the Construction Foreman for Two Idiots.

 

Carla Tokenaga Dortmonger (played by Bonnie Ona Homsey)

Demographic dramaturgic script analyst, who presents the Pac-Man Show’s dramaturgical breakdown to the Boys From New York. Her Yale background impresses the trio, but her voice puts everyone to sleep.

Bonnie Ona Homsey is the Choreographer on Two Idiots.

 

R. Taylor Curtis (played by Scanlon Gail)

Actor who starred in Star Hunt. He is considered for the title role on The Pac-Man Show, but Joe Clark is chosen instead. Curtis wins the part of Turk McElroy, Space Wrangler, in The Robot From Outer Space.

 

Joe Clark (played by Joe Clark)

Fresh-faced actor, chosen to play Pac-Man on The Pac-Man Show. Although he does not impress Murphy at their first meeting, he reveals himself to be a sensitive and accomplished actor during the rehearsal for the restaurant scene, conveying the torment of his character. He delights onlookers in his following of the apple pattern, and his reaction to the walls of fish. Clark is so good, in fact, that his high-concept, recherché approach to Pac-Man leads the Boys From New York to re-evaluate: they change to a low-concept approach, for which Clark, to his annoyance, is fired in favour of William Shatner. Joe Clark wins the part of the facetious and calculating villain Dr. Skull in The Robot From Outer Space.

Scene 91 of the film, in which Joe Clark is fired by Murphy, was filmed on 31st August 1987.

 

Winn Kaalsen (played by William Utay)

Little-known Swedish director. He impresses the Boys From New York with his use of pacing on the Dad’s Root Beer commercials, and is hired to work on the Pac-Man Show. Bold and intelligent to the point of pedantry, he clashes with Murphy over certain issues, but considers Murphy’s script wonderfully ‘actor-proof’.

"The wall of fish! The wall of fish!!"

William Utay also appears as Loupenis Jones.

 

Sandra (played by Joan Pirkle)

Actress, and co-star of The Pac-Man Show. She is bemused by some of the director’s decisions, but competently conveys the wit and meaning of Murphy’s script. She is not sacked when Joe Clark is, as Murphy feels able to score with her, and admires her breasts.

 

Cue Card Girl (played by Sunny Smith)

Present at the rehearsal of The Pac-Man Show’s restaurant scene, and bemused.

 

Prop Man (played by Tony Campisi)

Works on The Pac-Man Show.

 

William Shatner

Doesn’t appear in Two Idiots. Renowned Hollywood actor, whose portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek is commemorated by a waxwork model that Taylor views. He is drawn to The Pac-Man Show, replacing Joe Clark in the title role, but demands rewrites, leading to Murphy being sacked.

 

Jerzy Kosinki

Doesn’t appear in Two Idiots, except as a publicity photograph. An acclaimed Polish-American novelist, he had an acting role in the film Reds, and is chosen by the Boys From New York as Murphy’s replacement on The Pac-Man Show, after Shatner demands script rewrites.

 

Sergeant Albert (played by M.C. Gainey)

This sweaty man wins Taylor’s trust by complimenting him on his impressions and offering him cupcakes and juicy fruit gum, before revealing that he is a cop, and arresting Taylor for Joc Jeremy’s murder. During the subsequent interrogation, Albert is the ‘good cop’, restraining the threat of Sergeant Rose, but does not believe Taylor’s protestations of innocence. Albert uses his familiarity with the gay scene to assess Taylor’s relationship with Joc Jeremy.

"To the moon, bang zoom! To the moon."

 

Sergeant Rose (played by Ritchie Montgomery)

The insane ‘bad cop’ at Taylor’s interrogation. As an the ex-Catholic middle child of a nuclear family, he is dangerous. Unleashed from behind a door by Sergeant Albert, he commands a shark hand puppet, who menaces Taylor and threatens to eat his ‘meatballs’. Albert frequently restrains Rose, as they work to ensure Taylor’s cooperation.

 

Defence Attorney (played by Kurtwood Smith)

A lawyer with a taste for loud shirts and large black wigs. Lazy and incompetent, he persuades Taylor to sign a confession. During the trial, he samples the buffet, reads a newspaper and naps, rather than standing up for his client.

"C’est la vie."

 

Male prisoners (El Duce, Stan Yale, Ray Vernon, Reggie)

Threatening men who pose naked together in order to entice Taylor to sign a confession and remain in jail. During the film critics’ interlude, we see a clip of them in underwear.

 

Female Prisoners (played by Laverne Thompson, Gayna Shireen, C. C. Geno) & The Matron (played by Susan Youngblood)

Threatening women who pose together in order to entice Taylor to sign a confession and remain in jail. It works.

Laverne Thompson and Susan Youngblood also appear as Big Men Big Women Dancers. Susan Youngblood is one of the film’s singers as well.

 

Robert Rakeridge (played by Ron Colizzo) & Loupenis Jones (played by William Utay)

A pair of film critics. Rakeridge is from Films “Я” Us Quarterly, while Jones is from Aggressive Gals Magazine. Having encountered Two Idiots In Hollywood, they are so struck with it they interrupt the film itself to deliver a review. If you have never had a chalk and cheese sandwich, Rakeridge and Jones will bring you very close. Rakeridge takes an adroit, uncompromising approach to the film, criticising T. Barry Armstrong’s techniques of expository scenes, pauses (we are shown clips of such pauses) and publicity of his next film. This is offset by Jones, who has long looked for meaning in the flickering images of cinema, and is able to find, for all its flaws, the intriguing potential of Two Idiots. Their discussion descends into a Taylor-Murphy style slanging match. The pair appear as zombies in Murphy’s hallucination.

"It is definitely one of those films where, if you’re running late and can’t find a place to park near the theatre, want some popcorn or a cold drink and need to go the restroom – I say go. Don’t sit there and hold it in." – Loupenis

"Wrong as usual, Loupenis." - Rakeridge

 

Girl in Editing Room (played by Ann Hearn)

Red-haired NBA employee, who takes Murphy a message from the office about Taylor’s arrest. Murphy compliments her on her dovelike breasts, creamy thighs and (after verifying) taut buttocks, and arranges to help her practise her acting skills at his place at 8:00 that night.

Ann Hearn appears as both the Girl in the Editing Room and Morris Franklin, in the same scene! She is married to Stephen Tobolowsky.

The Editing Room is full of boxes of film reels labelled ‘The Robot From Outer Space’. Such boxes were also seen in Murphy’s office.

 

Maid In Hallway (played by Stephanie Lamotta)

Cleaning the floor when Murphy recovers from being knocked out.

She was also one of the Big Men Big Women dancers.

 

Mr. & Mrs. Wegg (played by J.B. McGrath & Jeff Doucette)

Murphy’s hillbilly parents and their spooky house appear in his hallucination. Murphy’s dad resembles Murphy, and his mother resembles Taylor. Murphy screams and flees.

 

Statue Of Justice (played by Gayna Shireen)

An immobile silver statue who stands behind the judge in the courtroom.

Gayna Shireen also played a Female Prisoner.

 

 Clip of the courtroom scene on Vimeo

 

The Judgeheads (played by R. Wayne Kruse & Wayne Winstead)

The judge at Taylor’s trial consists of two heads on one body. The judge is prone to moments of bias, being initially disgusted with Joc Jeremy’s murder, but compensates with flashes of control and justice.

"Having heard thousands of cases … his particular case turns my stomach. I think I may just vomit."

"Ho-ly Smokes!"

Wayne Winstead played both Judgehead #2 and a Barbershop Singer. In the scene where both those characters appear, Joe Clark played Judgehead #2.

 

Court Stenographer (played by David Kozubei)

Sits between the judge and the courtroom buffet, and works with gusto to type up the proceedings.

The courtroom is built in an empty swimming pool.

 

Barbershop Quartet Singers (played by Wayne Winstead, Rex Rotsko, Ron Hoffman, John Cox)

A foursome, dressed as waiters, who sing at Taylor’s trial and attempt to flee when Joc Jeremy returns.

"Poooltergeiiist!"

The appearance of the quartet, a real-life group named 976-SING, could be related to the four waiters missing from the rehearsal of The Pac-Man Show’s restaurant scene earlier in the film. Rex Rotsko, the singer with glasses, has a lipstick kiss on his cheek; you can read why below. Rex and I became friends after he contacted me, and we met in 2004. As of January 2015, Rex is a co-star of fly-on-the-rubble documentary series Fire in the Hole, which started on Discovery in January 2015. Bio Twitter

 

Jury Foreman (played by Edward Anhalt)

62-year-old male juror at Taylor’s trial, convinced from the outset that Taylor is ‘guilty as hell’. He becomes topless and dances vigorously during the barbershop song, and imbued with patriotic fervour, he informs the judge that the jury needs no extra time to deliberate. But as the trial continues with Murphy’s testimony, the foreman vomits in horror, and gains Native American face paint. He is frightened when the ghost enters.

 

Buffet Chefs (played by Charles Allen-Anderson & Benjamin Jurand)

The pair stand at the buffet in the courtroom. They believe that Taylor will be found guilty, and are both shaken and moved by Joc Jeremy’s appearance.

 

Prosecuting Attorney (played by Stephen Tobolowsky)

Lawyer present at Taylor’s trial. He wears a pink shirt with giant sweat patches. With ungainly movements, he grills Taylor and then Murphy over Joc Jeremy’s death, and becomes very vocal over Taylor’s behaviour. He plays the guitar during the barbershop song.

‘You watched TV?! After a vicious, homosexual torture-murder – your Honour I’ve heard enough!!’

Stephen Tobolowsky is the genius behind Two Idiots. He has also appeared in Groundhog Day, Spaceballs, Memento, Heroes, Glee and The Mindy Project. His blog can be found here. In 2011 I sent him a message to tell him about this webpage, to which he responded, 'hooray'! He answers questions about Two Idiots here.

 

Assistant To Prosecutor (played by Carl Bressler)

Hunched associate of the Prosecuting Attorney. He brings his boss Exhibit A (Joc Jeremy’s spine), dances and plays the guitar during the barbershop song, and is pleased that Taylor’s conviction seems imminent. He and the Prosecutor clasp hands intimately at one point.

 

Madman At Trial (played by Jeff Murray)

Runs screaming down the aisle when he hears from Murphy about Taylor’s behaviour.

There are several cardboard cut-outs sitting in the audience at the trial, dressed in real clothes.

 

Indian Juror (played by Claire Malis)

Woman who sits next to the Jury Foreman at Taylor’s trial. By the end of the trial she has become dressed in a Native American outfit, with face paint and a drum.

Mistake: The Indian Juror is seen sitting and screaming ‘E.T.’ when the ghost enters, and then is immediately shown standing up with the Jury Foreman and shouting ‘Poltergeist’.

 

Hula Juror (played by Mary McCusker)

Transforms into a hula dancer with grass skirt and bikini during the barbershop song.

 

Juror In Red (played by Hillarie Thompson)

Juror In Black (played by Wesley Pfenning)

Sitting in the front row, their outfits become a lot less formal during the song.

 

Dogs (River, Brandy, Gus, Rags, Neko)

At the end of the barbershop song, dogs run barking across the courtroom.

 

Puck (played by Brian Boyle) & Abraham Lincoln (played by Richard Craycroft)

These spirits appear alongside Joc Jeremy’s ghost at the entrance to the courtroom.

Richard Craycroft is Production Assistant on Two Idiots. Brian Boyle is Prop Intern. Thank you to Richard for emailing me in 2003.

Pac-Man was almost translated from its Japanese name to ‘Puck-Man’, but someone realised the potential for vandalism and suggested the alternative.

 

Crying Man (played by Jim Beaver)

In the audience as Joc Jeremy’s ghost pontificates, this man finds himself crying.

In 2007, I saw Jim Beaver guest-starring in CSI as a tourist who got beaten up. Not long afterwards he found my website and emailed me. His email took some beating. Thank you to Jim for sharing the following:

 'Ah, the memories. I was in the stage production of Two Idiots for a couple of months, as Wiler Weiner and Joc Jeremy, and I got a last minute call to come in and do the Crying Man bit in the film version. Two Idiots was some of the most fun I ever had. The play, I think, was funnier, partly because it was a little more focused. But I'm very proud of having been a part of both, and very proud of the many terrible reviews we got, along with a couple of good ones. I'd known Stephen Tobolowsky and Frederick Bailey for a long time, and several of the people in the play/film became very good friends. Thanks for giving it some internet space. It's a little-known gem, in my book.'

Jim Beaver is on Twitter

 

Dream Barbecue Mother, Father, Child (played by Belita Moreno, Joel Rudnick, Matthew Rudnick)

Just after Joc Jeremy’s speech at the trial, we see a home video projection of this family enjoying a barbecue in front of their house. The cameraman offers the boy a drink, which he takes with a smile.

 

The Robot (played by Frederick Bailey)

The main character in T. Barry Armstrong’s movie, The Robot From Outer Space. The silver Robot walks up behind Armstrong as he addresses the audience during Two Idiots In Hollywood, and later bursts through the floor of the courtroom to herald a trailer for the new film. The Robot has a vehement irascibility that belies its cheap appearance and mysterious origins.

"What is the most powerful object in the Universe? … What is the force that cannot be stopped? … What must die for the Earth to live?" – voiceover from the trailer

Discontinuity: the Robot costume on its first appearance is different from the costume seen later.

The Pac-Man Show

Pac-Man was a video game superstar during the 1980s, and beyond, spawning a series of games and a torrent of merchandise. Representing a pizza with a slice removed, the yellow character moves around a series of mazes, eating dots and fruit as he goes, but he must avoid four ghosts, who chase him each time. There are many good websites about Pac-Man, and it has emerged that the ghosts, who all have names (and nicknames), also have distinct personalities and patterns of behaviour.

 

And what about Pac-Man himself? What does he want? Is he simply the victim of circumstance, an allegory for the tortured human soul? Or is he a simple-minded aggressor, guided by gluttonous mouth and (when Ms. Pac-Man’s in town) lecherous eye? Can he be all this, as well as a small yellow circle who beeps and gobbles? This is what Murphy’s high-concept TV show proposal, The Pac-Man Comedy/Drama Hour, seeks to address. It will cash in on the increasing popularity of video gaming.

 

This is Carla Tokenaga Dortmonger’s commentary from the dramaturgical breakdown, shown when the programme idea is pitched to The Boys From New York.

 

"Man on the run, living in fear. Pursued by his ghosts: Speedy, who is faster than he is; Pokey, the slow terror of a wasted past; Shadow, which follows him wherever he goes. and Bashful, the shy, cute, yet deadly trap of oversentimentality. The object of the show is simple: man, the Pac-Man if you will – the hero, heroine or whatever – must have the wit and courage to confront his own fears, his own failings, his own ghosts if you will, and find sex. The stakes are high: his life."

 

The breakdown features a series of clips from black and white movies, including Cops (1920) and The Lost World (1925).

 

Murphy writes several restaurant scenes for The Pac-Man Show, and we see one of them, Murphy’s favourite, being rehearsed during Two Idiots In Hollywood. Joe Clark, who plays Pac-Man, wears a yellow jumpsuit, a little like a prison outfit. He is possessed of a simple wit and charm. He sits at a small table with his date, played by Sandra. There are supposed to be four waiters standing around, including Pokey, disguised as the desert waiter; but controversially, no actors play the waiters in rehearsal, and those present must pretend the waiters are there. During the meal, Pac-Man spills his glass of tap-water down Sandra’s dress, and they arrange to return to her place for dry clothes. However, Pac-Man first has to eat, for the first time in days, as the ghosts have been after him. Suddenly, Joe begins to run around the room, following an imaginary apple pattern and gobbling. Sandra, and the others present, cheer him on, and we hear beeps, and see a score notched up in the corner of the screen. Finally, Pac-Man is cut off by a "wall of fish" – a fish-covered net that drops from the ceiling – and then a second one. His hands raised, he spins around, screaming, and the scene ends to untamed applause.

 

The Pac-Man Show is directed by Winn Carlsen from Sweden. When the show is turned low-concept, Joe Clark is replaced by William Shatner; and as Shatner wants rewrites, Murphy is replaced by Jose Gasinsky. Taylor predicts that the National Broadcasting Association will be sued, however, as they "never had rights in the first place."

The Robot From Outer Space: scenes and actors

The film critics’ trailer

During the film critics’ segment, a brief clip of The Robot From Outer Space is shown to illustrate the trailer that will appear at the end of Two Idiots In Hollywood. A theme song for the new film plays during this clip.

Robot close-up

A clip of the Robot from Outer Space when he has walked up to the camera in the courtroom. We also see the hand-painted movie poster.

Man/Woman/Boy Dancing Under Tree (played by Wesley Pfenning/Tommy Bourgeois/Matthew Bourgeois)

A couple, dressed in red (the Boy does not appear in the clip), dance with a dog under a tree on a sandy beach. They have a beach ball and stereo with them, and the latter is visible in T. Barry Armstrong’s office during Two Idiots.

Ugly Woman

The camera zooms into the mouth of a woman with large spectacles and grossly uneven front teeth.

Main trailer

The eponymous Robot bursts through the floor of the courtroom, and stalks up to the camera (hitting his leg on a table on the way, and needing help to recover). A narrator (whose voice is similar to that put on by Murphy when he tells Joc Jeremy that Taylor ‘works the word processor machine’) asks us about the Robot, then guides us through the trailer, informing us of the qualities that the new movie embodies: ‘it’s action’, ‘it’s excitement’, etc.

"Action" scene 

Cheryl Anderson, Kat Sawyer-Young and Lisa Lack Robins, in scanty silver outfits, are tied up with their captain, Turk McElroy, in the lab of the green-faced Dr. Skull, played by Joe Clark, as destruction threatens the Earth. A hunchback played by Jenny Bourgeois looks on gleefully. McElroy becomes frustrated, and manages to zap Skull, who staggers over to a new camera angle and dribbles black and pink vomit down himself, groaning. We then cut to T. Barry Armstrong, dressed as a sort of bearded Viking, who tells us to "think about it."

"Excitement" scene

McElroy, his lasso next to him, sits on a beach playing a game of draughts with Kurtwood Smith, whose character wears rabbit ears. R. Wayne Kruse and Wayne Winstead, dressed in red, look over McElroy’s shoulder and give him bad advice about his next move. McElroy loses, puts on a rabbit mask, and falls over as a ship goes by. Kurtwood Smith says, "Next?" We then cut to T. Barry Armstrong and Todd, dressed as bearded Viking types, who instruct us to "think about it."

"Suspense" scene

Above the flaming tongues of a fire, hang Budge Threlkeld, William B. Steis, and Paul Koseter holding onto ropes. They each scream in turn and hold a terrified expression, but Koester smiles by mistake.

"Bizarre" scene

A series of actors (M.C. Gainey, Charles Allen-Anderson, Benjamin Jurand, Ron Colizzo, William Utay) get off a single chair one by one, revealing the next actor underneath, until Ritchie Montgomery is left sitting on the chair.

"Everything" scene

Bonnie Oda Homsey is sitting on a throne. Robert Darnell, wearing only black pants, crawls onto her lap and is spanked rhythmically as The Spanking Song (see above) plays. Ann Hearn enters from the right as a delighted hunchback, and Joshua Levy enters from the left, dressed in a combat outfit, and salutes.

"Space Wrangler" scene

Scanlon Gail, playing R. Taylor Curtis in his role as Turk McElroy, Space Wrangler, stands atop a car with his lasso. As Edward Anhalt and Phillip Ray Rolfe look on doubtingly from the pavement, McElroy lassos a nearby parking meter and gives a vigorous thumbs-up.

Final Scene

Morgana The Bionic Cow pokes her brown head round a building as a burning cityscape stands behind her. Then Jeff Doucette comes forward, holding the head, with J.B. McGrath wearing the cow’s body. They both have Two Idiots In Hollywood T-Shirts on. They are followed by Frederick Bailey, wearing the body of the Robot costume. Thomas Callaway and Bruce Wright come on as T. Barry Armstrong and Todd, and kiss the hands of Joan Pirkle. The six shake hands, then click their fingers at the camera simultaneously.

Songs

Two Idiots contains many original songs, ditties and musical numbers, all written by Stephen Tobolowsky. They add to the film’s nonsensical feel. Where lyrics were obscured by dialogue, I've not been able to transcribe them in full.

 

Donkey Magic

This song leads into the film.

We were dancing

Just around midnight

Just about the right time

To get some disco action

Me and my baby

We were dancing to the Bee Gees

We were gonna get it on

With all those funky cats

Then suddenly it happened

It was like a bolt of lightning

I was hit by donkey magic

My ears started growing

I started braying

[the song is interrupted by dialogue from Taylor and Murphy]

I was hit by donkey magic

It could happen to you!

 

Big Men Big Women

Taylor and Murphy, in their Dayton apartment, stick their heads through holes in the wall into a black room, and witness a dance routine. The first few lines of the song appear on screen. The song continues as the pair drive out of Ohio. The dancers they see are: Laverne Thompson, Susan Youngblood, Benjamin Jurand, Charles Allen-Anderson, Robyn Jacobs, Gregory Grove, Magenta, Kathleen Kelley, Joanne Wetzel Caverly, Stephanie Lamotta, & Phillip Ray Rolfe.

Of these, Robyn Jacobs is an Art Department Production Assistant on Two Idiots; Joanne Wetzel Caverly is Assistant To Director; Gregory Grove is Still Photographer; Kathleen Kelley is responsible for Craft Service.

Big men, big women

They’re fillin’ up my brain

Big men, big women

They’re makin’ me insane, yeah

(Oooh, oooh, oooh)

(Aaah, aaah, aaah)

Big men, big women

They’re fillin’ up my head

Big men, big women

They eat the high-priced spread, they said

(Five, six, seven, eight)

(Oooh, oooh, oooh)

(Aaah, aaah, aaah)

Big men, big women

They’re fillin’ up my town

Big men, big women

They like to party down, for a pound

(Five, six, seven, eight)

(Aaah, aaah, aaah)

(Oooh, oooh, oooh)

(Oooh, oooh, they’re everywhere)

(Aaah, aaah, they’re everywhere)

(Oooh, oooh, they’re everywhere)

(Aaah, aaah, they’re everywhere)

 

Action

This song, by Stephen Tobolowsky's band LA Slugs, accompanies Taylor’s avid drive across Los Angeles.

There’s a beat, in the city

That will take you, where you wanna go

And girl, you’re looking so pretty

I can’t help it, if my movements are slow

I’ve gotta have action (action)

Acton from the start

And baby don’t you tell me that you’re not the loving kind

I’ve gotta have action (action)

Acton from your heart

You know you’ve got the moves to blow my mind

You blow my mind

Yeah you blow my mind [x about 30]

 

Low To The Ground

This may be the song that is heard as the film critics’ segment comes to an end.

 

You Should Have Been Glad

This song is heard during Murphy’s hallucination, after he is fired and knocked out.

If you thought Vietnam was bad

You thought that Reagan was sad

If you think your future’s been had

Like Chinese food in a bag

Well I’ve got some news for you

I’ve got some news for you

It wasn’t that bad

You should have been glad

You spend your life trying to please

When all you do is eat cheese

[Unclear]

[Unclear] tease

Well I’ve got some news for you

Yeah I’ve got some news for you

It wasn’t that bad

You should have been glad

When the dark days come to town

You’d better not be around

Well come on baby, let’s leave tonight

We’ve got this one chance to make it right, yeah

You think your friends are so near

But all you do is drink beer

And you live your life in fear

Of all you see and hear

Well I’ve got some news for you

Yeah I’ve got some news for you

It wasn’t that bad

You should have been glad

 

Blow The Man Down

A kind of shanty, sung by a barbershop quartet of waiters who stand behind Taylor during his trial. The lyrics seem to link into the accusation that Joc Jeremy’s murder was a homosexual attack. This catchy song is zealously picked up by the entire courtroom. This photo, courtesy of Rex Rotsko, shows the quartet rehearsing the song in Stephen Tobolowsky's music room.

Blow, blow, blow the man down

Blow, blow, blow the man down

While walking down the avenue,

Who did I chance to meet?

A comely miss and her sweet sis,

With eyes and smiles so sweet,

We walked in the park 'til way past dark,

We sat on the village green,

And then with a smirk, they hiked up their skirts,

And lo they were Marines.

They say

Blow, blow, blow the man down

Blow, blow, blow the man down

Our life is to roam from town to town,

But we always come home when we blow the man down.

 

The Spanking Song

Featured in the trailer for The Robot From Outer Space. Also sung by the barbershop quartet.

Spank, spank, spank, how I love that touch

Spank, spank, spank, oh it hurts so much

Slap my buttocks and my inner thighs

And see what a naughty boy am I

Two emails from Hollywood

I’ve been lucky enough to receive emails from Wayne Winstead and Rex Rotsko, who played Barbershop Singers in the film. They have kindly revealed some behind-the-scenes information.

 

‘Hello.

 

I just read your very detailed synopsis of the movie Two Idiots in Hollywood.  I must say, I’m impressed with your thorough examination of a little-known movie.

 

As you may realize, I played Judgehead #2, as well as one of the Barbershop Singers.  I was also in the original play that ran in Hollywood at Theatre Theater.  I’m amazed out how much more you know about the film than I do.  One interesting note is that the photograph of the two-headed judge on your web page shows Wayne Kruse and Joe Clark.  When we shot the courtroom scene (in the empty swimming pool of the Hollywood Athletic Club), Joe Clark doubled for me when I had to do some Barbershop Quartet stuff (in the quartet, I’m the one with the fake mustache).  When the director needed more of the dialogue and close-ups of the judge, I would move into the robe with Wayne Kruse.

 

One other note is that the quartet was made up of the founding members of 976-SING, a group we (John, Rex, Ron and myself) started just before the filming of Two Idiots in Hollywood.  We went on to do several television appearances and toured the country performing at universities, comedy clubs and hotels.

 

Rex was the one who forwarded your web address to me and I want to thank you for taking me on a stroll down memory lane.

 

Peace,

 

-- Wayne’

 

‘Hello there,

 

I know Wayne Winstead emailed you so I thought I’d throw my two cents in. You seem to enjoy the details about things so I thought I’d let you know why the Barber Shop Quartet was dressed as waiters.  As I believe Wayne mentioned, the quartet had only been together a short time before this movie was shot.  Its creation had been inspired by Monty Python’s Sit On My Face song as seen on Live at the Hollywood Bowl.  The Python boys were dressed in long aprons and thus able to turn around to reveal that they were pants less.  We were never so bold and from the looks of our group you may agree that the world is better off for it.   I was working as a waiter at the time and copped four kitchen aprons and some white napkins from work and VOILA! our uniforms.  After Two Idiots we went on to perform around Los Angles and on the comedy circuit around the country.  For this we donned traditional barbershop garb with red and white striped shirts and the like.

 

Any way I’m glad I came across your site and very much enjoyed your impassioned review.  Thanks.

 

Rex Rotsko

 

P.S. In 1989 or ’90 Two Idiots was played in the Los Angeles film festival. The L.A. Times review stated that it was “...the worst film of this festival or any festival of repute ever...”.  We were very proud.’

 

I was pleased to receive a second email from Rex, including the following information:

 

‘The courtroom scene was by far the most expensive scene in the film.  I remember Stephen [Tobolowsky] saying that the ghost special effect was about half the cost of the movie.  I think he was exaggerating but then again the movie only cost about $1 million to make.  I was trying to think of more anecdotes about the film but few came to mind… Perhaps I could tell you a little about the location where we shot our scene.  It was the pool of the old Hollywood Athletic Club on Sunset Blvd. It has since been renovated and is quite an exclusive club but in the 80’s it was empty and pretty run down.  Back in the early days of Hollywood the club had been a gathering spot for all of the Movie elite, people like Tyron Power.  At one point we were all just sitting around in the pool when Ritchie Montgomery (he was the guy with the shark puppet) looked around and said, “Think of all the famous people who peed in here.”  not the highest calibre of humour but it got a good laugh out of us.’

 

Rex has been very supportive of the site, sending further emails with more details of the movie:

 

‘Yes, we sang the spanking song.  We also hummed The Battle Hymn of the Republic when the old guy [Edward Anhalt] was giving his speech in the court room.  That just kind of happened.  When he was reading his speech during rehearsal we just started humming and Stephen liked it so, in it went into the film … They were going to put out a soundtrack to the film but it wasn’t popular enough.  Oh well, maybe you can champion that cause.’

 

‘In the wax museum Jeff was supposed to be standing in front of the figure of Jackie Gleason doing his Gleason impression.  They asked, but the Gleason people (Maybe Gleason himself I don’t remember if he was still alive) wouldn’t let his likeness be used in the film. To remedy the situation they just pulled his hat down over his face. You can see him like that in the background.’

 

‘Every week we performed at a theatre in Hollywood with a comedy girl group called the “Voom Sisters”. In fact Stephen was a friend of the Voom Sisters and came to see them perform one night and that’s when he first saw us and how we came to be in Two Idiots.  You may have noticed them credited with singing back up for some of the songs in Two Idiots.  Actually, Our quartet sang back up for “Big men, Big Women” along with the Voom Sisters but only they were credited.  The Voom sisters were; Eva Voom, Ava Voom and Ova Voom.  When one couldn’t make a performance the forth sister Uvula Voom would fill in.  Anyway, one day before a show one of the girls, I can’t remember which one, kissed me on the cheek and left a perfect kiss mark.  Everyone got a kick out of it and demanded that I keep it for the show. After that it became kind of my trademark. Before every show she would come to the dressing room and “apply my lipstick”.  The Voom Sisters weren’t on set for the filming of the courtroom scene so I just found a girl with good lipstick and had her do it. The trademark faded away at some point in our career, I don’t know when.

 

Wayne [Winstead] said that putting everyone in strange costumes for the last bits was just an elaborate and goofy way to do the end credits.  976-SING was not in the end credit scenes because, again, we were a last minute addition to the film.’

 

Click here to visit the website of Broken Bottle Productions, Rex and Wayne’s production company.

Here is a link to the website of 976-SING. They have a Facebook page too which includes tributes to Ron Hoffman, who died in 2013.

More

To read my tongue-in-cheek essay on Two Idiots, to learn more about the play, and to find out about how the final script developed from the earlier fifth draft, take yourself here.

 

Links

Here is the movie trailer, which includes clips that didn't appear in the film.

Review of Two Idiots In Hollywood (with screen grabs) and Q&A about the movie with Stephen Tobolowsky in the Cultural Atrocities blog

MySpace page for Two Idiots In Hollywood

Review of Two Idiots In Hollywood

Another review

IMDb entry for Two Idiots In Hollywood

Stephen Tobolowsky's blog

Pac-Man:

The First Church Of Pac-Man. Great repository of Pac-Man facts.

The Virtual Pac-Man Museum. Fascinating insight into the Pac-Man phenomenon. I emailed the curator to let him know about Two Idiots In Hollywood

Salon.com: Pac-Man. Article analysing the cultural impact of the game.