Always, Fischel Tannenbaum, had insisted that the idea had been his, no matter what that lying goniff Schmuckler said.
“I’m a lying thief?” Schmuckler demanded, “I’m a lying . . . I’ll show you who is a lying. . . .” His face would redden and he would wave a fist, too irrate for speech.
“You and what army,” Fischel would cackle.
Schmuckler claimed to the day he died that until the seed was planted in Tannenbaum’s evil garden by this green thumbed gardener, “to wit myself,” he would add to prevent confusion, Tannenbaum had never even heard of the actor who spoke with the voice of silence, “to wit Mandelbaum.”
“Never heard of Mandelbaum,” Fischel chuckled knowingly, “ the creator of the silence of sound. . . .”
“The sound of silence, yuld, idiot.” Schmuckler would grin pointing to his head a twirling finger. “You see?”
“It’s a joke, I’m making a joke. Who doesn’t know from Mandelbaum? I never went to the movies? I didn’t see the Weekend at Ernies.”
“Bernies, I said Bernies. What did I say?”
The way Schmuckler told it the idea came to him while he was watching on the American Movie Channel a documentary on the silent film.
“I like documentaries. I like real things. Fake movies, I don’t watch.”
They were talking about some silent movie star(“who was it, I can’t remember. It’s years ago”) whose career went down the sewer when the sound came because he had this little squeaky voice (“a big he-man with a little pip squeak voice.”).
“So I’m thinking, this hot shot movie star, this Mandelbaum how come it is he never speaks. Maybe he’s got some defect he can’t speak. You know he’s dumb or something. But then maybe he just don’t want to speak, maybe he just don’t want to speak because he’s got also a little pip squeaky voice. You seen him in the movies? A big man. A giant with a little squeaky voice. It could have been? Why not? Of course by this time Mandelbaum had his little disappearing act pulled . Vanished. It was in all the newspapers. You must have read. . . . Anyway, I ask myself, why does a man making millions of dollars in the movies, everybody knows who he is, women throwing at him their room keys and their underwear, why does a man like this out of the dull gray sky suddenly decide to take off into wild gray yonder never to be seen or heard of again. And to myself I answer. . . .well you know what I answer.”
“But the idea to make the film was--” Tannenbaum insists, pounding on the kitchen formica. “I don’t care what that son of a bitch tells you. You believe what you want. I know the truth. He knows the truth. From my mouth to God’s ear, the idea to make the film was--”
“Big macha! He knows from making films.”
“The film I don’t have to make. Metro-Goldwyn-Disney I don’t need to be. All we need is a copy–“
“What we do is get a copy of some of his old movies. They’re all over the place. We’ll take it to this guy I know, he knows all there is Know about this movie business, he used to work for Izzy Lefkowitz when he ran the video store over in Sheepshead Bay. From the movie we’ll cut out a piece, and over it we’ll put in a voice for the actor without a voice. Like in the cartoons. We’ll give him a voice: the great Mandelbaum will speak.”
“The great Mandelbaum will squeak, you mean. We’ll say we found it in an old file when we were cleaning out the office of. . . well somebody’s office, somebody big in the movie business. We’ll say it’s from the movie a take out--”
“Out take! Take out, he says. Take out is sesame chicken you moron.”
“Moron, you are calling me a--”
“No I’m calling a moron your brother, Hymie, you moron.”
“I’ll give you m-m-m,” sputters of rage from Tannenbaum.
“I’m in my pants, shaking,” from Schmuckler. “The decision is we’ll take this film to the big shots in the studios; we’ll say they [“The big shots,” Tannenbaum by way of clarification] cut this out of the movie because by accident Mandelbaum spoke and they couldn’t let everyone–[“The Public,” Tannenbaum interrupts] the public. They couldn’t let the public know that Mandelbaum who all these movies they were selling[“Marketing,” injects Tannenbaum], marketing as the voice of silence. So maybe they would be willing to pay a couple of shekels to keep it quiet. And if not. . . .”
‘If not there was always The National Enquirer or The Star. They were always having stories about Mandelbaum sightings in West--”
“Mandelbaum was the biggest thing since Elvis.”
“For sure at least they would spring for a nice size check. It was an idea, couldn’t miss.”
“Couldn’t miss is right. Unless you are dealing with a moron who--”
“Again with the moron? I’ll show you moron, you ignoramus.”
“Ignoramus? You learned a new word?”
“A new word, I’ll--” Tannenbaum grimaced and clutched his chest.
“Never mind him. He’s a Mandelbaum, you know what I mean, a Mandelbaum?”
Tannenbaum was breathing heavily.
“Enough with the acting. You got to have a heart before you can have a heart attack.”
Tannenbaum smiled: “You see the kind of person I have to deal with. Anyway, a couldn’t miss idea it was.”
“Was? Still is? So what the big shot wouldn’t go for it.”
“They laughed at us. Somebody will believe this, they said.”
“At you they laughed. You would have let me talk. They would have laughed out of the other side of their--”
“Somebody could stop you from talking? I’d like to see the day. At the Enquirer, they would have taken it--”
“Of course the story, what do you think I’m talking about, the bar mitzvah of the Prince of Wales?”
“Chicken feed, they offered us. Ich hab em in dred. You know what this means. They should go to. . . . ah, so what. We still got it, the tape.”
“We could put it the VCR.”
“If you like, you could hear. You could tell the world how you were the one to hear Mandelbaum speak.”
“Maybe, you’ll make a buck.”