Saturday, October 14, 2006
On September 11, 2003 John Ritter died of a heart attack at the age of 54.
On September 12, 2003, Johnny Cash died due to complications from heart valve replacement surgery at the age of 73.
On September 13, 2003, I wrote this:
Johnny and John in Heaven
Johnny Cash sidles up to a bar called Heaven. He orders himself a Mai-Tai.
John Ritter, nursing a whiskey sour, says "I expected you to drink something a little more, you know, a little more masculine, less fruity.”
Cash clears his throat as if to say "You don't know me, son, you know nothing about me.” But he doesn't actually say this. What he says is: "Ritter, do you remember when we first met? Back in '78. I was in a bad place then. You were king of the world. You had the looks, the hit show, Joyce DeWitt. I had a drug problem and my label wanted to drop me unless I did duets with those bastards Nelson and Jennings. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, it was at the Regal Beagle, on Pico. I was drinking what you're drinking now, a whiskey sour. You were all high and mighty, with your ascot, surrounded by starlets. So right before closing time I was at the pinball machine. And you said 'hey what's up, Man In Black?' Well, you broke my concentration, Jack. I was about to get a free ball! But it's water under the bridge now. I forgive you"
Ritter takes a deep breath and says "Johnny, the Regal Beagle wasn't real. It was just TV. And my name is John."
Cash cackles. "Aw, I'm just fucking with you, Jack. Welcome to Heaven. Guess you're surprised you got here so young. But it's not a bad place. We got a jukebox. And good food, courtesy of June. And an open mike every Tuesday night. Zevon hosts it and the only rule is No Poetry. Kind of harsh, I know, but it's alright. Phil Hartman tells me the other day Barry White did a slow jam, accompanied in dance by Greg Hines. It was almost poetry but not quite"
Ritter takes a swig from his drink. “Heaven, huh? I died before you. How did you get here first?”
Cash grins. “Well, let’s just say Heaven’s closer to Nashville than it is to Burbank.”
Ritter finishes his drink. “Are there any rules here?"
Cash clears his throat. "Yeah, we've got rules. Eight simple rules. One, I already told you. No Poetry on open mike night. Two, no bar tabs. Pay for your drinks when you get 'em. Now, we don't have currency in heaven. So for payment you do whatever the bartender tells you to. If he says cluck like a chicken, you cluck like a chicken. It depends on who's tending. Sonny Bono's an asshole, but Eazy E doesn’t ask for much.”
Ritter interrupts. “"Is that why Jesus made me do a pratfall for my drink?"
"Yes, Jack, that's why. Simple rule number three. No smoking, that which felled Warren and Ella and Lucy Ball. Four, no prima donnas. Hope and Kate Hepburn came in here thinking they owned the place. No one owns the place! At least not until Lenny Cohen gets here. Rule number five, we got a multimedia lending library. Books, records, DVDs. I think we've got season one of ‘Company.’ DVDs you keep for two nights, everything else is two weeks. Don't be late. Paul Robeson's the head librarian and he gets pissed if you're late. Number six, be civil. There are no wars in Heaven. If you come to a disagreement, work it out, in a non-violent manner. King's a stickler on this.”
"Martin Luther King?"
"Nah, Farouk. Simple rule number seven. No religion. Need I say more? And finally, number eight. There’s a test you have to take. It's just one question. The first week here you get a free pass. But then they ask you a question. If you answer it right, you stay in Heaven. You get it wrong, well, there's another bar down the street. And unless you want to spend the rest of your days drinking with Uday and Waylon and Hitler and Stalin and Lennon, you better get the question right. Now, thanks to June, I know the answer, so I'm okay. I would've gotten it right anyway. But I won't tell you.”
“Because of the night at the Beagle, with the pinball. Yeah, I know by the time the nineties came along, I had my comeback and you were struggling, so maybe you got your comeuppance. But hey, it's not my fault you didn't have a guardian angel like Rick Rubin.”
"But, Johnny, the Regal Beagle never happened"
"Again, just fucking with you, Jack. Still, I can't tell you the answer to the question. But I can tell you the question, so you can study. Are you ready? You might want to write this down."
Jesus hands Ritter a pen and a napkin. "It's John and yes, I'm ready"
“Do you promise to study?”
"The question is: Furley or Roper?"
at 3:55 PM