Car Talk Steele - Part VI
Date: Monday, June 25, 2001
Lauryn Poynor <>

Car Talk Steele - Part VI

by Lauryn Poynor

BERNICE: Hello. Is this Car Talk?

TOM: Could be. Are you wearing red?

BERNICE: How'd you know tha-? Are you some kind of pervert?

TOM: No, no! It's a gambit we use on the show, you know,
ah...guess what color every sixth caller is wearing. Usually we just guess their car color, not their um..never mind.

RAY: Stick to cars, Tommy. You'll live longer.

BERNICE: If you are the Car Talk guys and not some neighborhood creeps then show me a sign.

TOM: How 'bout 'Mechanic on Duty.' That always gets a laugh from our customers.

BERNICE: Actually, I'd like to see a sign that says 'We Pay Top Dollar for 60's VW Microbuses.' I've had it with that rattling ice chest on wheels. I'm Bernice Fox, by the way.

RAY: Oops. We'll stick to the rules this time. No last names.

BERNICE: Fine by me. Someone's always getting it wrong. A
certain someone I'd rather forget.

RAY: Where are you calling from?

BERNICE: New York.

TOM: New York! I knew it!

RAY: Sure you did. I've got to agree with you Bernice. A car
crusher could turn a Microbus into a great little piece of 60's folk art. Best use for it, really. It would make a really neat doorstop.

BERNICE: Tell that to my boyfriend, Eddie. He calls that bus
'the birth of the cool.' As far as I'm concerned they go way
beyond cool to absolutely freezing.

TOM: You said it. The only time I've ever gotten warm in a
Microbus was when the auxilliary gas heater caught fire. A
fairly common occurence. It's the only vehicle with a fire
extinguisher as standard equipment.

BERNICE: I'd fire it up myself if I was insured, but I can't
afford the premiums. I keep hoping someone will steal it or tow it away, but I can't get arrested in this town. Alternate side of the street parking on East 13th but the rustbucket's never been towed.

RAY: What's the city coming to? Don't they have an image to
uphold? Demand your rights as a taxpaying citizen. Doesn't the DOT need discretionary funds anymore?

BERNICE: It's not really their fault. Eddie will drag himself out of bed at 5 am just to move the lousy heap to the other side of the street. Damn him. I'm gonna hide his keys.

TOM: This boyfriend of yours, is he capable of rational thought about this VW? Would he sell it or trade it in, or is he a hopeless case?

BERNICE: Hopeless. He's given the metal beast a nickname: The 'Groovin' High' Express. After some crazy Charlie Parker tune. Eddie's a sax player. I guess you could tell that, huh?

RAY: Tommy knows as much about jazz as he knows about, oh, the Cyrillic alphabet.

TOMMY: Which is nothin' nyet.

BERNICE: When I met him I thought life with a musician would be exciting, romantic, an adventure. The most excitement I've had lately was driving that crate over the Verrazano Narrows bridge. Pedal to the floor to get to 40 miles an hour and swerving with every gust of wind. Cars bumper to bumper and smacking the bus from the rear. I still have scars on my knees from the impact.

RAY: Yep. Knees are the first line of defense in a Microbus

BERNICE: Tell me about it. I had to wear kneepads for a month. I looked like a goalie for the Rangers.

TOM: Very stylish.

BERNICE: I told Eddie the next time his band had to play a bar mitzvah in Staten Island to hail a cab. Then he got all touchy about the amplifiers and drum kits and keyboards and mixer/amps and instruments and blah, blah, blah. Why is it that guys think they have to lug around 3,000 pounds of equipment in order to play a few lousy bars of 'Hava Nagila?'

RAY: It's the same with mechanics. How many hex built socket
sets does a guy really need?

TOM: Hundreds.

RAY: You would say that. You're in hock up to your eyeballs to the Snap-On Tool Company. Some guy named Guido was nosing around the shop yesterday. Said you were a little behind in your payments. The phone's been ringing off the hook.

TOM: Bookkeeping error. I'll give them a call back.

BERNICE: Where I used to work in LA I'd get calls like that all the time. From Bruno's and Guido's and - hey! Is your Guido my Guido?

RAY: There's probably a 'family' connection.

BERNICE: I kept hoping my Guido would do his best work with a Remington and take a certain black haired, blue-eyed bane of my existence who called himself my boss - ack!, for a scenic tour of the LA river, from the underside.

TOM: Your Guido probably wouldn't use a Remington shotgun or
rifle, more likely something small and easy to conceal like a Glock 9mm.

BERNICE: I'm flexible. It's the thought that counts. Speaking of connections, the man I worked with knows all about the Bruno's and Guido's of this world. Drove them as batty as the rest of us. I can see him now hiding in his office, telling me to take a name and number. Of course guys like that don't leave a name and number.

TOM: They leave widows and orphans.

BERNICE: I remember the first time Guido called, my boss - in assumed name only - told me to tell him it was a mere bookkeeping snafu and he was 'incommunicado' at the moment.

TOM: He was in Communicado? Isn't that a small Caribbean island a stoner's throw from Jamaica? Hippie haven? You know, 'commune-icado?'

BERNICE: Oy! Don't you start. It took me forty minutes but I
finally convinced Guido that there was no such place and my boss hadn't fled the country yet, though the Bahamas were still the running favourite in the office pool.

RAY: Those bookkeeping errors have a way of catching up with
you. I hope you told your boss not to spend too much money on suntan oil and beach wear.

BERNICE: Waste of time, waste of breath. He was the poster boy for American Express.

RAY: Never left home without it?

BERNICE: And left us holding the bag. He had some very
expensive hobbies named Nadine, and Gayle, and Darlene and -

TOM: Liked the ladies?

BERNICE: Ladies? If you use the term loosely. Believe me, he
used it - and them - as loosely as possible. He was their only means of support, besides their bras. They had double-D cup sizes and single digit IQ's.

RAY: So if it wasn't his money who was paying the bills?

BERNICE: The woman who really ran the agency we worked for. You know the old saying, 'behind every great man, there's a woman?' Well, in this case it was, 'behind every great woman, there's a man taking all the credit.' Not only the credit but everything that wasn't nailed down.

TOM: Are you saying that you worked for a man who really worked for a woman?

BERNICE: He played the boss in public, still does. We fooled an entire city into thinking he was something he's not - an
upstanding citizen. The Mayor, the Police Commissioner, our
local Congressman. Everyone. Some story, huh?

TOM: Who says you can't fool all of the people all of the time?

RAY: They should make a TV show out of it. Nah. Scratch that. It would never work.

TOM: This ex-boss of yours sounds trickier than Zero Mostel in 'The Hot Rock.' He could even give Tony Curtis in 'The Great Imposter' some stiff competition. Why did the woman in charge keep him around?

BERNICE: You just answered the question. She made him stiff, he made her hot.

RAY: That's not the most poetic declaration I've ever heard but I can't deny you have a unique way with words.

BERNICE: So has he. I miss it sometimes. We had some real
humdingers. I'd be wearing a silk Halston outfit for a hot night on the town and he'd say he'd see it in his fantasies that night - on Jessica Lange. I'd fire back that his brains were below his belt and the bimbos he wasted his brainpower on were so dumb they could converse with house plants without an interpreter.

TOM: It sounds like they were smart enough to get him to spend lots of dough.

BERNICE: Oh he was a standup guy. Always ready to lend a hand - or some other part of his anatomy - to a blonde in need. His favourite charity was himself, though and we all had to contribute. Swanky apartment, chaffeured limo. No expense was spared. He had more clothes than an LA Fashion Week trunk show.

RAY: Speaking of trunks, sounds like your ex-boss could still be hearing a little 'trunk music' New Jersey style if Bruno and Guido decide to take a Caribbean vacation.

BERNICE: I kept hoping that Mr. Clotheshorse would come through the door of Suite 1157 wearing the latest fashion - in cement. My fingers are still crossed. So far I haven't seen any cheerful news bulletins. For a guy whose name is in the LA Tribune from Front Page to Lifestyles you'd think he'd oblige me with a lousy obituary column. Or a police arrest report.

TOM: Getting back to our original point here, I don't think the Snap-On Tool Company bears me any ill will. They sent me a flyer just yesterday. They're having a great sale on 3/8" drive sockets this week.

RAY: Some kids never grow up.

BERNICE: Mother warned me it would be like this. But I didn't listen. Eddie's the same about his sax reeds. He can never have enough. They're always soaking in the bathroom sink. Yuck! Tell me something. Do mechanics pal around together doing brake jobs and wheel alignments when they're off the clock? Just for the fun of it?

RAY: It's a mechanic's mission in life to avoid weekend car
commitments like the plague. One step ahead of family and
friends. Avoidance skills are key.

BERNICE: That I can understand. What I don't understand are
musicians. Hanging around with their buddies in someone's
basement. Playing endless riffs for hours. Jamming, they call it. Can't they call it a day and go home?

TOM: Beats me. It's like saying, 'hey, it's the weekend. What do you wanna do for fun? I know! Let's go to work!'

BERNICE: It's not like I spend my free time typing and filing. We can't even go to a club without Eddie wanting to hop up on stage. It'd be one thing if he was getting paid for it.
Sometimes I think the world is upside down. How many guys do you know that spend hours on the job, but still stand in line for their unemployment check?

RAY: Actually I know quite a few but they've asked me to keep it quiet.

BERNICE: I thought it would be glamourous but boy was I wrong. Trailing along with Eddie to weddings and bar mitzvahs, never seeing him otherwise because I work 8-5 and he works at clubs til 3 am. I went with him once hoping that we could hit the dance floor when he was between sets. But then it hit me. There's no music to dance to. They're on a break! Really dumb, huh? When it all started I thought we'd hang out with the rich and famous, with the royalty of the music world, but even the one chance we got didn't work out like I'd planned.

TOM: Michael Jackson get laryngitis?

BERNICE: Michael Jackson? Get real! I'm talking about the man himself. His Royal Badness, His Purple Highness - Prince.

RAY: Charles?

BERNICE: Do you people in Massachusetts live under a rock
somewhere? Prince is a musician.

TOM: We have lots of famous musicians. There's that band
'Boston' for instance. [sings] 'More than a feeling..'

BERNICE: I rest my case.

RAY: So what was the deal with this Prince guy?

BERNICE: This Prince guy is a musical genius. Not mention
incredibly sexy. Ooh, that hair that hangs down over his
forehead. Those lips, those eyes. That voice. GRRROWWWLL!
That cute little navel. Actually, that's how I got banned from the studio.

TOM: Clandestine navel maneuvers?

BERNICE: Never got close enough for that, darn it. We showed up wearing the same midriff top. Purple spandex with sequins. I guess we both shop at Barneys. Prince gave me this look like he was seeing double. Next thing I know he whispers something to some muscle guy in his entourage and I get hustled out to the parking lot. The man of my secret sex fantasies hires Eddie to play sax on his new album and I spend the whole time sitting outside in that moldy Microbus.

RAY: He's a little touchy, isn't he?

BERNICE: He's an artist. Prince is very sensitive to his
surroundings. He has to channel his creative energies, maintain his focus. He accepts nothing but the best from himself and his musicians. Eddie says it was the toughest studio session he's ever done. He almost didn't make the cut.

TOM: Why not? He and Prince have on the same earrings? Or

BERNICE: Eddie doesn't wear eyeshadow. He wears an earring,
though. Girls are always chasing after Eddie. There was this lead singer once in an all-girl punk rock band called The Rubbermaids -

RAY: The Rubbermaids?

BERNICE: Yeah. Kind of like The Sex Pistols without the pistols if you get my drift. Or The Clash - but with tits. Can I say that on the air?

RAY: You just did.

BERNICE: Or The Buzzcocks without the -

RAY: Whoa! You can't say that! Nothing off-color allowed on
this show, unless you count the primer paint on Tommy's Dodge Dart.

TOM: Ha! What a comedian. So, what happened at the studio?

BERNICE: No one told Eddie that Prince uses hand signals during a performance. He was late on a couple of pick up notes because he thought Prince was just scratching his nose.

RAY: Mechanics use non-verbal communication, too. For instance, if we see a Volvo or a Saab driving in we give the thumbs up sign.

TOM: It's shorthand for 'we're in the money - make those
reservations for Hawaii.' With a VW Microbus we just point a
finger and shoot. Shorthand for 'put it out of its misery.'

BERNICE: Love to. Eddie's been getting some more studio work
since that session with Prince, though. Not that the talent is anything to write home about. 'Huey Lewis and the News!' What's that stupid song? 'It's hip to be square?' They should know. Eddie was afraid he'd lost his chops for good after that gig. Still, he's bringing in the money lately and that's what counts. That's part of the reason I'm calling. He's dying to restore that useless Microbus.

RAY: This is serious. What can we do to help?

BERNICE: Well, he wants to do a complete overhaul. Engine,
transmission, the works. Then give it a custom paint job, you know, with a logo for the band and an airbrush scene of them on stage. As far as I'm concerned, Andy Warhol could paint that bus and it still wouldn't look cool, or be any easier to drive.

TOM: We just need a convincing angle, something that will make him step back, slap his forehead and say, 'what was I thinking?' Isn't it a scientific fact that extremes of temperature are very bad for musical instruments?

BERNICE: That's true. The band always has to do a lot of tuning after we drive to each gig. The bus doesn't have any heat or air conditioning. He does always complain about the cold and the damp being bad for the instruments.

RAY: Installing an add-on air conditioning and heating system in an old 60's era Microbus is a major operation, and makeshift at best. Of course he'll find that out when he gets the bill. He could probably find some parts from a old VW Kombi, but don't tell him that. Even if he gets the system up and running, that Microbus will never be the vehicle of choice for the New York Philharmonic.

TOM: Tell him he owes it to his art to throw away his money on something more sensible. Like a Range Rover. Well, OK, a Dodge Caravan.

BERNICE: Thanks, guys. I'll give him the message. But a Caravan doesn't sound much better. Eddie owes me one. Who cares about sensible? I know just the car. [sings] 'Little red Corvette. Baby you're much 2 fast, yes u r. Little red Corvette. U need 2 find a love that's gonna last, oh, oh.. Little red Corvette..' [fades out]

RAY: Well, we don't have to cue up a song now. What do you

TOM: She sounds good to me.

RAY: Do you think he'll go for the 'Vette?'

TOM: I'd go for the 'Vette. And the girl. In a spandex top with sequins. Or the Range Rover. And the girl. In a -

RAY: A girl and a guy and a Microbus. Doesn't have much of a
ring to it, does it? Speaking of rings, catch that phone, will you? I think we have another caller.

To Part VII