One last, unexpected time… lonesome writer me, adjusting to the beginning of a new business career, suited up, baffled, a bit misfit, my terminal naiveté on full display. The partial lyrics for the outline below are now posted at https://georgecomeauxliterarygumbo.com/consolidated-consoles/ .
Unexpected, in this particular series, because I had forgotten that this attempt existed, and when I remembered it, thought I’d have difficulty finding the two or three pages where this project exits. (And I haven’t found them since renewing the search.) Somehow, keyword laptop searching, I discovered I had already put the lyrics into a word document, and actually had written an outline for a musical.
Adjusting to the beginning of a new career, and privately displaying the “tell” that would characterize my entire career trajectory – I was observing, and commenting in my style on what I experienced, rather than diving into the details and focusing on the source of the paycheck – installing and helping sell the new technology. The business wasn’t paying me for a documentary on my perceptions. I found “Copyright 1968” in the original scribblings, which means I was only one year into this professional life, too soon to make judgments on the process or the people. The next similar project, my five-year creation of a board game “Chairman of the Board,” will be documented soon as “Folly #1” of my life. In a sense, the musical script in the later “The Adventures of Tom Watson” post is an extension of this career focus diversion.
From here I’ll just summarize my concept, then copy the outline and comment on what I had in mind for the plot, and identify where some lyrics are fleshed in.
The Concept: Mesmerized in my new work environment, I was joining the computer industry just as data processing was rocketing upward. IBM had just announced the third generation of mainframe computing with its System/360, the industry and employees were young and energetic, the (VietNam wartime) economy was roaring, and women were bounding into the professional workforce, and, often management. Every week the office bulletin board would announce promotions of ladder climbers, as I was trying to adapt to my brave new world.
The theme was a reversal of boy meets girl, climbs the ladder, leaves girl behind. This would be girl meets boy, climbs the ladder, leaves boy behind. Two critiques from my Sunspots on the Moon script influenced the plotting: My college advisor had recommended more conflict, such as an unexpected pregnancy; and a community theatre director had described the script as “didactic,” so I was intending to have the leading womanizer become the hero when emotional turmoil dominated.
No dialogue was written, but I did scribble up several lyrics. The unwritten scenes are described below, along with lyric snippets. CONSOLIDATED CONSOLES was to be a script more about personal interactions in a lively, emerging office world, somewhat of a cousin to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, rather than “The Adventures of Tom Watson” concept, which was in effect a paean to the Watson family and its business practices and accomplishments.
The Outline: CONSOLIDATED CONSOLES
Opening number is an instrumental mélange of cacophony depicting the morning commute. Passengers and drivers on trains, buses, subways, and cars roll by, swaying, honking, dozing, reading the daily press. A group of “suits” steps off train, turns and salutes the office building behind, chanting: “Pledge your hearts, dedicate your souls, consecrate your lives to – CONSOLIDATED CONSOLES!” Nattily dressed ladies step off subways and buses with the same salute. A young former school teacher now Nerdy young intern arrives on a bicycle, starts the chant but has to be coached to get all the words right. A young lady Dynamo in accessorized bright red crosses the street from her apartment and nails the chant.
“Pledge your hearts, dedicate your souls, consecrate your lives to – CONSOLIDATED CONSOLES!”
Bell – Award
Inside the office, a bell rings, and a manager awards a large bonus to a salesman – a recurring event throughout the script.
“For a Fortune”
The players, professional and administrative, describe their aspirations in a group fugue.
“How do we measure? How do we test? How do we know which one’s the best? THE ONE, WHO HAS THE BIGGEST – FORTUNE! – FORTUNE! THE BIGGEST FORTUNE!
Young nerd, apart from the mainstream, philosophizes his direction:
“Joe doesn’t glow in the corporate dance, but – give Joe the the chance, give Joe the chance.”
“I Don’t Want to Go to New York”
Bell rings again to announce a promotion, a salesman off to a management position in New York. Several in the crowd cluster to react to the good/bad news:
“I don’t want to go to New York! I don’t want to stay home after dark! I don’t wanna get mugged in Central Park! I don’t wanna go – I don’t wanna go – I don’t wanna go to New York!”
“Congratulations, You Son of a Bitch”
Another group of envious salesmen react to the promotion. (I went off the rails on this one. This is early cynical me, when every promotion seemed to be for someone I didn’t get along with in my early days. Later, I learned what business is all about. I never heard anyone use this title phrase, but “The Shadow Knows” – see below. Maybe I’m the first to even think it.)
“Congratulations, you son of a bitch! You made a good move, and you’re gonna be rich! Somebody swallowed your SuperSales pitch! Congratulations, you son of a bitch!”
“I Like It Just Where I Am”
The red-dressed Dynamo retreats to her management office, shuts the door, and proclaims her private perspective:
“I like it best where I am every day, I find a challenge and do it my way. It’s when? – it’s not whether? – I’ve got it together, And I’ll be the star of this play. Some people travel, until they unravel, but I like it best where I am.”
“Doesn’t Anybody Want a Lady Anymore?”
No words here yet. One of the secretaries, nearing thirty, bemoans lack of a steady relationship.
“After Hours, Mr. Jones”
Younger secretary handling the phone bank responds to call after call.
“With all of the hustle and bustle I see, all of the calls are for me! – After hours, Mr. Silver! After hours, Mr. Gold! A lady must be careful, so I’m told! After hours, Mr. Jones! After hours, Mr. Smith! A lady must be careful, whom she’s with!”
“Sell! Sell! Sell!”
No written words yet, a branch motivational meeting, with words like “Sell! Sell! Sell! – Sell the devil a trip down to hell!” – or some such hype.
“A Little Bit of Everything”
I’m not sure what I had in mind here. Maybe a fugue with several characters, including Nerd and Dynamo, soliloquizing their response to this milieu, ending Act I. Somewhere along this act, Dynamo and Nerd somehow get interested in each other.
Bell – New Blood
Ye olde bell rings again, announcing new hires, followed by newbies milling around with oldies, at a barroom later.
“Who Do You Know in San Francisco?”
Ye olde “Getting to know you” verse, something like “Who do you know – in San Francisco? Who do you know, in Baltimore?” etc. I believe I have more lines on the papers I haven’t found yet.
“Sell! Sell! Sell!” (reprise)
Nerd meeting with manager and getting an injection of motivation. Maybe more words on the missing paper, but all my brain remembers is reprise of “Sell! Sell! Sell! – Sell the devil a trip down to hell”…
This one is a wild projection – three secretaries, twenty-ish, thirty-ish, and forty-ish, lonely-hearting how they deal with the office environment.
“When you were twenty, your eyes were open and there were many, men to take you out, and discuss what life’s about…”
“Now, when you’re turning thirty, the trip feels kinda dirty, the fellas getting older, they start to acting bolder…”
“But, when you’re turning forty, it’s just a hell of a party, a hell of a hell of a party…”
“Ms., as in Misery”
Lady Dynamo, in her own office, wondering if she’s giving up too much personal life to nourish her ambitions. All I have here is the title, but the plan is she’ll emerge re-committed to her path.
Attitude Adjustment Hour – “Shooting Blanks”
This is part documentary, based on observing one of my very expressive colleagues waddling into the office one day, loudly explaining the waddling and proclaiming why his future will be carefree despite his temporary limited stride. Maybe more words on the missing papers, but all I remember is “I got that big ‘V’ – now I can really be me!”, and “Shooting blanks! Giving thanks!”
Now it’s Nerd’s turn to contemplate his stage in the staging. All I remember is “Straightarrow, Straightarrow, you fly through the air, so peaceful, so balanced, so true; You fly over mountains, ignoring mere fountains, entrapped by your limited view.”
“What’s It Like?”
I can’t remember why this is in the outline. Somewhere in the earlier scenes, one of the macho salesman was spreading his charms all around. Maybe someone is having him explain his prowess. Or maybe one of the secretaries is consulting him about her pregnancy. He’s supposed to wind up as the big problem solver somewhere, but I don’t remember where or when.
“The Shadow Knows”
Someone, maybe the fortyish secretary, interprets the overall picture of this community. “The river reveals to the sea, where it flows; but only the shadow, stays there and knows – Only the shadow knows.”
Bell – Promotion
Lady Dynamo gets her promotion, up to headquarters in New York. Probably a reprise, but with her very positive take, but I haven’t written any positives yet.
“I’ll See You Again”
The inevitable goodbye between Nerd and Dynamo.
Not quite sure how to close the curtain with a rousing, positive sendoff.
N.B. When several years ago a writer colleague directed me to the AMC series “MadMen,” I got interested in the series and reacted – “I know all these people!” Other than its business being advertising and mine data processing, and the visible alcohol that was prevalent in the advertising offices but verboten in mine (nearby Happy Hours made up the difference), our offices could have been interchanged.