The Golden Gobboons
A play in one act and three scenes
by Alfred de Grazia
Copyright ©2001 by Alfred de Grazia
Set in Providence, Rhode Island, November 1936, in the living room of Ed Mahoney's home, he being boss of the Democratic Party, which is finally on the verge of seizing the state from the Republicans. "Lace-curtain Irish" furnishings include two large gold-colored spittoons (gobboons), with plants in them. Two posters on sticks (of the type used in parades) stand against the wall, reading "Vote Straight Democratic with F.D.R." and " Phil Lo Vecchio for State Senate." Two windows.
Personae: Ed Mahoney, boozy type with paunch, Northeastern barroom accent.
Mary Mahoney, Ed's wife, ruddy red-haired handsome matron with a hearty Northeast accent.
Louis Coniglia, owner of a big night club, tightly suited, bow tie, polite voice with slight Italian accent.
John D. Delaplaine, Republican candidate for Lieutenant-Governor of the State, burly, pompous, oratorical, prep school accent
Agnes Delaplaine, his wife, petite, chic, aggressive, prep school accent.
Philip Lo Vecchio, Candidate for State Senator, lean, dark, serious, Northeastern accent.
A photographer and a news reporter (several would be better).
Mahoneys' living room, Ed and Mary present.
Mary Mahoney: Here comes Louis Coniglia now.
Wipe your feet.
Coniglia: Excuse me. How are you? Shakes hands as they say "Hello, how are you?" and he starts talking.
Coniglia: Ed, our deal is off. I am not going to give you money and campaign workers and everything else and be insulted and denounced by that candidate of yours Lo Vecchio. That guy is so honest he can't be trusted for nothing.
Mahoney seeks to reassure him: He's OK, Louis, just between you and me, it's just campaign bunk. He'll be like everyone else once he gets into office.
Coniglia: It's off! Please, don't tell me. I'm from Sicily. His old man was an anarchist from Sicily. I know their kind. They're fanatics.
Mary also tries to reassure Ed and Louis -- the trouble is that she is trying to convince them both of what each does not want: But I know him well. He is very trustworthy. And perfectly honest as well.
Mahoney: But can you trust him to be dishonest, I mean, of course (looking sidewise at Coniglia), a little dishonest?
Mary: What do mean by "a little dishonest?"
Mahoney: Well, you know how tight the laws are about closing hours of taverns in the State. Shouldn't they be loosened up some? Or maybe meanwhile don't enforce them so strictly.
Coniglia: Mrs. Mahoney, two of my bartenders spent the night in jail last week, before we could spring 'em. For no good reason, just for serving old customers who were having a good time.
Mary: Yeah. Drunk when they should have been home and in bed.
Coniglia: Oh no. We don't serve drunks - signs on all my bars. These are gentlemen I am talking about.
Mary: (sceptically) Humph!
Mahoney: You see, Mary, it's not only a matter of Phil's creating problems for respected businessmen trying to maintain an orderly place - you remember what conditions were under Prohibition. It's just that Phil is so stubborn. (Addressing Coniglia) But he's not so stubborn as all of that - I've spoken to him on the subject, and (rather pompously) I have something to say around these parts.
Mary: Humpf. (Rather indignantly) Are you saying he can't be trusted?
Mahoney: No, no. All I am saying is that we don't want him to be completely trustworthy.... I mean, all these promises to the voters. Jesus, if he kept them, we'd all be out on the streets.
Coniglia (shaking his head doubtfully): I don't know .. It looks like I'm caught in between here...
Doorbell rings. Mary answers door to let in Delaplaine and his wife Agnes.
Delaplaine is angry. So. What a fine pair you make! Caught in the act. And you, Mahoney, either you call off this slander against us or I'll turn you in.
Mahoney: What slander?
Delaplaine: That I went to Nevada to get a divorce from Agnes.
Mahoney: Maybe everybody else is saying so, but not me. Is it true what they are saying? Could be. You tell me.
Delaplaine: Absolutely not. A canard, a roorback, a dirty trick with the election only three days away. It takes a mere 24 hours for every voter in Little Rhoddy to hear that Liuetenant-Governor John Delaplaine is getting divorced from his wife of twenty years, and in Las Vegas.
Mahoney: Well, good, then you have two full days in which to deny it.
Delaplaine: Clever, aren't you? To deny a rumor is to affirm it in effect. You know that very well. You'd like nothing better.
Mary: Did you or didn't you go to Las Vegas.
Delaplaine: Of course I did, I wouldn't deny that.
Mary: You couldn't deny it. Even while the campaign was heating up? If it was a divorce why couldn't you postpone it? Who is she who is putting the pressure on?
Delaplaine: There, you see?
Agnes: (furious with her husband) Do you mean to tell me that you brought me here for this nuttiness, this teapot tempest, this olitical travesty?
You said you wanted to see Ed Mahoney to make peace, for the sake of clean politics, to keep the campaign from going out of bounds. Is this what you call peacemaking?
Delaplaine: But, this is peace, Agnes dear.
She draws back her pointy shoe to kick him, makes contact as he flinches and steps backwards.
Delaplaine: Calm yourself dear, but then as Coniglia sidles toward door - Oh, no, you don't, Louis. You're part of this.
Coniglia: This what?
Delaplaine: This roorback, this dirty last-minute spreading of a rumor in order to ruin my chances of election.
Conigilia looks baffled, Roorback? but makes no further attempt to leave.
Delaplaine: And Ed, if you don't call off this roorback, I'm going to turn you in for stealing those golden gobboons (pointing at them) from the Mayor's office, when you were in control of City Hall. I will ask the State's Attorney, an honest and diligent Republican, needless to say, to indict you.
Mahoney becomes righteously indignant: Now I am really laughing (but he isn't laughing) You must be off your trolley! I'll have you know that those cuspidors were presented to me by the City Council, by a special ordinance.
Delaplaine: Yes? Then where is the record of a public meeting on the matter.
Mahoney: None was required. It was a closed meeting, off the record. Perfectly legal.
Delaplaine: It was not legal. To make any appropriation, whether of money or in kind, the Council has to be in public session. There was no public session, and I warrant that the closed session was comical. Look it up. I'm a lawyer.. And you, you.. are just a lifetime leach on the public payroll.
Mahoney: You had better watch your mouth. For your information, the value of such an appropriation, according to law, has to be substantial. These gobboons were not of much value.
And don't forget, they were used! In fact, very reasonably, the Council argued that it was not decent and decorous to have those monstrous (Mary: Monsters! Now he says it.).. grotesque, reminders of the days of tobacco chewing and spittoons in the office of the Mayor. They go back to the days before the women got the vote.
Delaplaine: You bet they go back. And they are gold-plated, as well as antiques. They were worth thousands of dollars at the time, $2123.77 to be exact, when they were purchased in 1911; you forgot to pull out the record. Just imagine their value today.
Mahoney: This is an old peccadillo, if that, and you haven't the chance of a snowball in Hell to get anyone to raise the issue with a straight face.
He'd be laughed out of the room.
But, as to what you said in the beginning.. That lie of yours about the roorback. You know (speaking now with an insinuating leer), maybe one ought to consider taking steps like that in fighting an election against the likes of you.
Agnes: Oh, how disgustingly horrible!
Mary: I agree it would be disgusting if I knew what a roorback was.
Mahoney: I'm telling you, Mary, it's a last-minute attack on a candidate that he can't possibly have time to rebut before the voting starts. In this case it's may be not a true roorback, but anyhow I absolutely deny that I was the one to start it going.
(Turning to Delaplaine) The question of your representing the nightclub and saloon king of Rhode Island is another matter.
Delaplaine: Why, you cheap crook...
Coniglia is gliding toward the door again.
Mahoney: Don't go, Louis.
Coniglia: All right, Ed. Forget what I came for. I take it back. I'm with you down to the line.
Delaplaine: Louis, what are you doing? Don't listen to him! He must have had us tailed.
(To Mahoney) How the devil did you procure this information - or misinformation, should I say?
Mahoney: (pridefully): Aha. If there is a tail, it's a donkey tail, and you're wearing it. Did you ever hear of our new State-Senator-Elect? That's our man, over there. (He points to the poster for Lo Vecchio.)
Delaplaine: Lo Vecchio?
Mahoney: Yep. Philip. He can smell a rat in a perfumery. Knows what you wanted there, too.
Coniglia: Forget it, I said.
Mahoney: You were arranging a casino license for Louis to open up a club in Las Vegas.
Coniglia: He said that?
Delaplaine: Louis, as your attorney (Mary: You see?! His attorney!).. I advise you to say no more and suggest that we drop this subject right now.
Yes. And let's back to this matter of the grand larceny committed by our esteemed Democratic Party Chairman.
Mahoney: You infamous shyster! Go ahead with your wild stories about my two little planters here. (Agnes, sarcastically: And lovely planters they are!) Can you imagine anyone in his right mind taking you up on this fantastic defamation about my two old planters? You've given us help on two issues already. Republican gambling connections and, this is what I shall announce after our meeting: my publicly announced defense of a woman's honor against false rumors that her husband was divorcing her. And I'll make it plenty strong against those dirty rumopr-mongers, never fear.
Agnes: This is unbelievable! What am I doing here?
Delaplaine: Go ahead. Win the elections. You'll have plenty of time to write your victorious memoirs, while behind prison bars.
Mahoney: (incensed) Stop your dreaming! I repeat, can you imagine anybody in his right mind taking you up on this fantastic defamation about my gobboons?
Delaplaine: Yes, indeed. I know just the man who would do it. And he's not even a Republican.
At the windows, cameras flash. The door, never quite closed since Agnes grasped its knob during the verbal battle, is pushed open to admit Lo Vecchio, followed by two journalists and exclaiming.
Lo Vecchio: Here you have them, fellows, just as I said, only better.
A triple play! (He draws imagined news headlines in the air.)
It's a Total Conspiracy against the People of Rhode Island.
Politicians and Gambling Interests United against the People.
The Complicated Corruption of the Golden Gobboons!
The three accused turn upon him and exclaim: You traitor! Yes, traitor!"
Lo Vecchio:(After an initial flinch, he holds his ground stoutly.) l will never sell out the people. The people are my judge. You all are unfit for public office, and as for you, Coniglia, your sleazy joints will never stay open after hours again.
Coniglia, plaintively: I was only trying to help you get elected, Mr. Lo Vecchio.
Lo Vecchio: I don't need your kind of help.
Mary, surprisingly, to judge by the expression on everyone's face: He's right. He's the only honest politician in the state. Shame on all of you ruffians and cheats. She rises in wrath. Get out of my house and home! And you, too, Ed Mahoney, can go along with them.
They move out, hastily, grasping the arms of the reporters and exclaiming,
"It's a lie!" (Mahoney)
"It's a frame-up! (Coniglia)
"There's no shred of evidence! " (Delaplaine)
"It's easily explained, just take a moment." (Agnes).
But the reporters, bent upon filing their stories, shake off their grasps
and exit first, followed by the entreating foursome, leaving Lo Vecchio in the room breathing deeply, and Mary, who stands looking at him, fascinated.
Philip takes a pencil and pad from his pocket and throws himself down by a golden spittoon. He can't lift its edge because of the weight of plant and dirt.
Lo Vecchio: Mary, hold the plant back. I need these numbers for evidence in court."
She lifts her skirt to brace her legs apart to tilt the cuspidor, and he scribbles.
Then he runs his free hand gently up her stretched-out leg.
She almost tips over the plant. He rises, and seizes her passionately.
Lo Vecchio: Mary, you were wonderful.
Mary: Philip, I love you. Embrace.
Lo Vecchio: It's you who made me, you who launched me, Mary, I love you. Your face could launch a thousand ships.
Mary: Thankfully (laughing like a girl), the elections will be over soon, and you'll be free to launch me again and again.
Shouts in the distance approaching. Philip exits by the back door. Mahoney reappears, indignant: Where is that sonofabitch ingrate?
Mary: If you mean by that, Senator Philip Lo Vecchio, he's gone.
Mahoney kicks first one cuspidor and then the other , crying: You goddamned gobboons, ouch, ouch.