Rio de Janeiro — So here I am, dateline Rio, just like Anderson Cooper heading into the teeth of the Cairo street riots, only with girls in thong bikinis instead of people who want to punch me in the face. You’re probably not surprised that I’m here, since a rich and famous Hollywood A-list screenwriter like myself can pretty much go anywhere, but the fact of the matter is that I haven’t been to Brazil since Francis and George and I were location scouting a few years back for The Manchurian Candidate III: This Time, It’s Personal, my updating of the classic paranoid thriller that would have been in theaters by now, except that Universal pulled the plug on it on Nov. 5, 2008, go figure.
Well, now I have a better idea: a reboot of the old Fred-and-Ginger franchise, Flying Down to Rio — you remember, the film with the chicks air-surfing on top of the single-engine plane, the one that somehow managed to second-bill Astaire and Rogers in favor of Dolores Del Rio — that we mash up with elements of The Boys from Brazil and Blame It On Rio, change a couple of things to attract the all-important male 6-to-14 demographic, and get:
Blame It on Flying the Girls from Brazil Down to Rio; This Time, It’s Personal.
Which is why I was invited to fly down on Air Force One, courtesy of You Know Who, and I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences by relating the gist of our conversation, which is, of course, for your eyes only, and not for distribution except to that small neighborhood newspaper that circulates mostly on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the New York Times.
It seems that His Serene Majesty Barack Obama, Lord of the Flies, Keeper of the Hoops, Master of the Greens, and Protector of the Holy Cities of Honolulu and Chicago, had heard about my little project from Chris “Tammany” Dodd, the new head of the Motion Picture Association of America, and invited me aboard Vacation One in order to discuss some weighty matters of state.
“You see, Dave — may I call you Dave? — it’s like this,” the president began. “I have a gift, but unfortunately for me it’s not a gift that keeps on giving. More of a one-time, stop-the-rise-of-the-oceans, Chris Matthews–tingle, King Canute–type deal. Got a sort of law-of-diminishing-returns thing goin’ on here. And what I need is a sequel. Folks want a sequel. Obama II, 2. And since you’re the acknowledged master of sequels . . .”
Pardon my blushes: Here was POTUS his own good self, asking the advice of David Kahane of the Little Red School House, St. Ann’s, and the Columbia School of Marxism-Leninism; my father, the sainted “Che” Kahane, was going to be so proud. I looked him over, taking careful note of the sharp crease in his pants, the shine on his shoes, the radiant Bobby Bonilla smile and realized that, yes, he can make a very good president — for another two years. Unless he gets me on the team.
“Thank you, sir,” I said. Michelle, the kids, their godmother, and their grandma were somewhere in another part of the plane, and the president and I were alone in the traveling Situation Room. “I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say the situation was urgent. After all, unless the Republicans go completely off their nut — which luckily with this bunch is always possible — you won’t have Senator Stockholm Syndrome to kick around in the next election. Gaia forbid, you might even catch an opponent who’s actually going to fight back. Bloody your lip. Get medieval on you.”
Barry — hey, he told me to call him Barry; either that or Your Highness — laughed. “You’re talkin’ Sarah Palin, aren’t you, Dave? I ain’t no moose — I can whup that wingnut with my silver tongue tied behind my back.”
Time for some tough love. “No, Mr. President,” I said. “Worse.”
“Not that Johann Sebastian Bachmann or whatever her name is.”
“Sharron Angle? Christine O’Donnell?” He shuddered, as if trapped in an Ira Levin movie. “What is it with these women? Do the Republicans clone them? Who is it this time?”
I dropped the hammer. “Your worst nightmare, sir. Hillary. She and Bill are coming after you, just like Teddy went after Carter. They smell the blood in the water, just like Bruce the Shark in Jaws, and it’s payback time for that Secretary of State gig, just like Randy Quaid in Independence Day. Even if you beat her in the primaries, you think she couldn’t get the GOP nomination if she really wanted it? It’s not like they have anybody else. You’re in big trouble, and denial’s not just a river in Egypt anymore.”
Barry blanched. Just like in a pitch meeting, when the exec leans forward, licking his lips, I knew I had him. “You’ve said you want to recapture the magic of Campaign ’08, make people believe once again in the audacity of taupe. Yes, we can puede, and all that foreign-policy jazz. We want the entire nation to be standing up once more, hand not over heart, and singing Tomorrow Belongs to — no, wait, what was it? Yeah — Crush on Obama.”
“So . . . what do I do?”
“Fire her — now, before she fires you. Exile her to Naxos or Elba or St. Helena or Hot Springs — any desert island will do. Just make sure she doesn’t have access to a broo—”
Too late! At that moment, just like in the movies, the plane went into a steep nosedive. Women screamed, plates hit the ceiling, and the Secret Service johnnies were tossed around like matchsticks. I could swear I saw Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman sailing by. We were in free-fall, and the folks who hadn’t fastened their lap straps had gone weightless, like Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon in Apollo 13, only without Gary Sinise to get them down.
Then came that hideous cackle I knew so well from the primaries. I turned to see Herself, floating through the air on a broom while sucking down a Jack Daniel’s, neat. Even more terrifying, she was flanked by Susan Rice and Samantha Power, both of whom bore a remarkable resemblance to her.
“No, you can’t,” they chanted. “No, you can’t.”
“But . . . I’m the president!” exclaimed Barry.
“Not any more,” said Hillary, circling both of us. “We’ve just declared war on Libya and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. I’m running the show now, buddy.”
“Double, double, toil and trouble,” chanted Susan and Sam. “Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” I always thought Power was Irish, not Scottish, but there you go.
“Help me, Dave!” shouted the president. “It’s a coupe!”
Everything seemingly was spinning out of control. I had to think fast.
And then I woke up.
Hey, if it worked for Edward G. Robinson and Fritz Lang in The Woman in the Window, it can work for me, too. Besides, there are times when reality is too terrifying to contemplate.
— David Kahane is on the beach at Rio, in his imagination, anyway. Save yourself the price of a phone call and write to him at [email protected] or, if you need company, delve into the pages of Rules for Radical Conservatives and then become his cloned friend on Facebook.