"The Duke of Baltimore"

The William Donald Schaefer Story

(A script outline for the would-be film)

Cover Story

November 19, 2000|By Stories by Dan Rodricks and Dan Fesperman | Stories by Dan Rodricks and Dan Fesperman,Sun Staff

Re: "The Duke of Baltimore"

From: Mel LeBlanc

The Scriptorium

555 Hollywood Blvd.

Hollywood, Calif. 10027

To: Barry Levinson

Baltimore Pictures

Burbank, Calif.

I've been researching your man Willie Don Schaefer per your request, and, hey! what a character! Haven't seen material this good since you turned me on to those aluminum siding guys. The hubris! The chutzpah! A pothole filler with an Edifice complex! I mean, two stadiums and an entire waterfront kingdom? Old Cheops himself couldn't have outbuilt this guy.

And his character: A mayor who flips reporters the bird! Vacations in a trailer! Likes Eddy Arnold, Hulk Hogan and Englebert Humperdinck! Calls his cabinet a buncha girls! I love this guy. Hey, the names alone could sell this one, Barry -- guys named Mimi and Du? The Mayor's Department of Adventures in Fun? A love interest named Hilda Mae Snoops?!

This stuff's just too good. So, whaddayousay, big guy, how 'bout giving this treatment a look? I'll be in Monday to make the pitch in the flesh.

And, Barry ... "Do It Now! Do It Now!"




Scene 1


Open: Tight close-up of a mouth as it shouts, "This is a great day for the city of Bawlamer!" Pull out to reveal face red with exertion. "A great day, a great day for the city of Bawlamer! Head the shape of a melon fills screen. "I'm here to announce a homesteading program for Barre Circle." Continuing pullout, we see middle-aged man at podium, wearing topcoat and cap, punching the air, raising his enthusiasm and volume as he gazes into far distance, as if scanning outer edges of huge crowd. Snow swirls in fierce wind seemingly as if driven by his manic energy. Tinny feedback whines in the cheap podium speaker. Camera pulls out farther, and we see not a multitude but a mere handful -- two bored reporters, a TV cameraman and, huddled to one side, wearing expressions last seen on deck of the Titanic, two shivering aides. All stand on barren tableau of urban ruin: vacant rowhomes, rampant graffiti, chain-link fencing, razor wire. The man continues to shout, his voice echoing off empty buildings. Police siren in distance.

Schaefer: "Every one of the 125 homes you see behind me will be sold for a dollar apiece to people willing to put their blood, sweat and tears into saving the neighborhoods of Bawlamer. Instead of tearing everything down, we're moving toward preservation!"

Super in lower third of screen: Feb. 3, 1976.

Schaefer: "This is a great day for the city of Bawlamer!"

Cue music,"You Don't Know Me," by Eddy Arnold: "You give your hand to me, and then you say hello / I can hardly speak, my heart is beating so / And anyone can tell, you think you know me well, but you don't know me."

Under music: Sound of wind in the microphone, the distant siren, the clatter of the cameraman packing his gear. Aides unplug and remove podium. Schaefer heads for car. Fade to title: "The Duke of Baltimore."

Scene 2


Cast: Schaefer, Chuck the Driver, mayoral aide Joan Bereska, secretary. Scene: Interior, moving car. Schaefer curled up by window, pouting, his best grouch face. Through the window a panorama of rowhouses, East Lombard Street, 8 a.m. Sidewalks filled with kids strolling to school. Car suddenly bounces through massive pothole.

Schaefer: Stop! Stop the car!

Chuck: What?

Exterior: Car rocks as Schaefer struggles to find door handle. Chuck runs around, opens door. Schaefer, flustered, gets out and examines giant pothole.

Schaefer: Look at that! Look at that!

He gets out yellow legal pad and Magic Marker. "Pothole!" he writes.

CUT to office interior. Bereska's office. Sheet of yellow paper with "Pothole!" on her desk as she enters.

Bereska: What's this?

Secretary: He left it.

Bereska: What pothole? Where?

Secretary: I don't know.

Bereska (looking to office door): Is he in there?

CUT to another office interior. Mayor's chamber. Schaefer waters African violets.

Bereska: Mr. Mayor, where's the pothole?

Schaefer silent.

Bereska: Are you going to tell me where it is?

More silence.

Bereska: If you don't tell me where it is, we can't fix it.

Schaefer turns on his heels, quickly. Points watering can at Bereska.

Schaefer: Find it and fill it.

Bereska: But which one?

Schaefer: When it's filled, I'll let you know.

Scene 3


Cast: Schaefer, Bereska, Chuck, Du Burns, Mimi DiPietro, city officials, 300 extras, TV reporter, other reporters, aquarium officials, Douglass High School band.

Scene: National Aquarium Seal Pool, July 15, 1981. Interior: Construction trailer. Aides are assembled, peering out windows, speaking into walkie-talkies. Bereska paces in front of a door. Gossipy ambient sound.

CUT to exterior crowd. Reporter ready for live shot.

Reporter: This is Jack Bowden, live outside the new National Aquarium in Baltimore where any minute now, the mayor of Charm City, William Donald Schaefer, is going to cut the ribbon that will open the aquarium to the public. And we're told there may be a surprise. Here's City Councilman Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro. Councilman ...

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