Scene 6 (Gala)
by Trey Nosrac
The setting is a room in an Alzheimer’s ward. A young couple, Mandy and Ryan, continue to visit Martin Kilbane, an elderly horse trainer. In his lucid periods, Martin describes events in his life with remarkable clarity. In earlier sessions, he has talked about serving in the US cavalry, the death of his young wife, and his life-long struggle with alcohol.
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(Hospital background, sounds of rattling cigar box)
RYAN: Soon, this box with his newspaper clippings and junk will be the only trace of Martin.
MANDY: Someday, every one of us will be just memories.
RYAN: And only IF we have somebody who even remembers us.
MANDY: I don’t even have a box. What are you gonna do with his after…you know?
RYAN: Don’t know, haven’t thought about it.
MANDY: What’s with the newspaper clippings?
RYAN: (paper ruffling) Racing. You know, this type of racing horses was a big deal. Did you ever hear the name Gay Talese?
MANDY: Is she a drag queen?
RYAN: He. Gay Talese was a He, a very famous writer, well actually he still is a renowned writer. He’s in his nineties now. He wrote novels and for major magazines, a real character, always dapper, dresses like a movie star. Talese worked his way up the writing ladder, starting with newspapers. He was descriptive and took his time, a perfectionist who painted a picture with his words. (paper rattling) This clipping is an article he wrote for theNew York Timesabout harness racing in 1958. Here, look.
MANDY: (more rustling of paper – she reads dramatically) Breaking news from 60 years ago. The headline: Accent on Style at Harness Oval.
RYAN: Read it out loud.
MANDY: (Reading with flair)Men in big cars, suntanned women trimmed in fur, all added to the plush décor tonight as Yonker Raceway, the Fort Knox of Westchester County, began a 104-night harness horse racing meeting.
The 30,998 first-nighters, many of them pearled, powdered, preened, and money-hungry, bet a total of $2,036,279. They sipped cool drinks as they watched Gold Worthy win the featured $22,000 Coronation Pace.
Conforming to the current belief that a New York harness track must be plush and emulate the Copacabana Night Club, Yonkers Raceway was bright with flowers, decked in colorful modern furniture and overpopulated with headwaiters.
Chemises, trapezes, and bouffant styles were very popular with women dining in the clubhouse. Mrs. Frederick E. M. Ballon wearing a gown from the famed Givenchy House of Paris received as much attention in the clubhouse as Justforfun, who won the first race.
Many missed the daily double. Traffic was bumper to bumper up the Major Deegan Expressway. Some customers were settling into their racing forms when Governor Averell Harriman’s Cadillac pulled in at 7:45.
“Hiya Gov,” yelled a stout man with a large cigar. The Governor put on his jacket, straightened out his tie and led his wife out of the car. He shook dozens of hands, then was led to his table by officials and press agents.
Mood music played in the background, perhaps music to mute the loss of money gushed throughout the grandstands and clubhouse over 24 amplifiers. A 50-piece band from Garfield, The Holy Name Cadets, strode down the track in two-quarter time before everyone settled down to the business at hand.
Six searchlights swept the sky. Photographers edged and elbowed through the massive crowd, snapping pictures of popular first-nighters. Governor Harriman, himself a former gentleman harness racer from Goshen New York, posed willingly but said he had no hot tips on horses.
As early as the second race, some race-goers, determined to beat the rush home, left their seats and headed for tier cars. Harold Klien, a horseplayer, won $35 after three races, so he just took off in his convertible while he was ahead.
A TV announcer in a white dinner jacket, standing on the track, smiling up at the grandstand, interviewed Jackie Robinson and Ralph Branca, former ballplayers.Through it all, most spectators whooped and hollered, but the United Nations Ambassadors from Chile, Panama, and Columbia remained at their tables with solemn dignity.
A press agent reported that opening night was a big success, although he added that many of the those at opening night came to see and be seen, not lose money on the horses. He added that in the future, more horseplayers and fewer dignitaries would increase financial prosperity.
It was a nerve-tingling night in the Yonkers kitchen. Like any opening night, the kitchen corps had its fair share of troubles. More than 2,100 dinner guests jammed the Empire Terrace and the Good Times Room to capacity. Cooks had begun to prepare as early as Monday so that the service would be quick tonight. Still, over 5,000 customers who applied for dinner reservations, were not able to get them. The service was a bit slow, but the tips reported were fast and heavy.
RYAN: See what I mean, before we met Martin, we never heard of this sport. We still don’t know much about it, but once upon a time it was a huge deal. The horses and the races that Martin talks about, they weren’t just a little hobby. Harness racing wasn’t a nothing burger for a few people who liked horses. Racing was like a World Series game.
MANDY: Why do you suppose he kept this article?
RYAN: Look at the end of the article. Look, down here, where they have the racing results. See right here, seventh race, Trot, purse $12,000. The winner of the race was a horse named Trader Horn. Next to the horse’s name is the trainer, Billy Houton.
RYAN: Look at the name of the horse that finished second.
MANDY: Heavens Rein…trainer Martin Kilbane. Oh my God, our Martin, part of this big show!
RYAN: Thirty thousand people knew this game, and a lot of them knew Martin’s name.
(fade to sound)