Sunday, September 2, 2007

LEARNING TO SING : The Clay Aiken Story (Part 2)

To read the first part of the Lifetime movie script, please see blog for Tuesday, August 28, 2007.


A Lifetime Original Movie

Based on the memoir “Learning to Sing” by Clay Aiken and Alison Glock

Starring Dakota Fanning as Young Clay Grissom

kd lang as Clay Aiken, beginning at age 14

Dee Wallace Stone as Faye Parker

Christopher Walken as Ray Parker

Harry Dean Stanton as Vernon Grissom

Patti Labelle as Mrs. Watson

Directed by Alan Smithee

[Camera returns to CLAY in the dressing room of the Hollywood Bowl, looking at pictures in a scrapbook. There are several pictures of him with his new friends -- the former bullies -- as they play soccer, build a snowman, and go skinny-dipping in a local river. (Note: Please return latter picture to Mr. Aiken, as it comes from his private collection.) Voice-over by CLAY: “Yes, those were happy times. I finally had some friends, and at home I had a new baby brother. And it was around that time that I met another of those older women who were always among my biggest champions. Her name was Mrs. Watson.]

FLASHBACK: CLAY is singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” at the local talent show. Mrs. Watson, a fashionable and fiftyish African American woman sits in the audience, one hand clapped over her mouth in awe of the child prodigy singing on the stage. Clay’s VOICE-OVER: Two days later, Mrs. Watson tried to track me down. Unfortunately, there was only one “Grissom” listed in the phone book...and that number belonged to my drunken, virulently racist sperm donor, Vernon Grissom.

[Interior shot of the hovel where VERNON GRISSOM lives. He is sleeping on a dirty couch, surrounded by empty bottles of alcohol. On the wall is a dartboard with a picture of Faye Parker glued to the front. (Note: please return dartboard to Clay Aiken, as it comes from his own personal gameroom.) When the telephone rings, VERNON wakes up with a hangover, and searches for the phone, knocking over bottles and empty pizza boxes.]

VERNON : Yeah?

MRS. WATSON : Hello! I don’t know if this is the right number or not, but I’m trying to reach Clayton Grissom.

VERNON : He don’t live here.

MRS. WATSON : Are you his father?

VERNON (a hacking laugh that leaves him breathless) : They call me...his sperm donor.

MRS. WATSON : Well, can you tell me where I can reach your little sperm donee, sir?

VERNON : Hey, wait a minute. Are you BLACK?

MRS. WATSON : Why yes, I am!

VERNON : This conversation is over, negress.

CLAY’S VOICEOVER : Vernon Grissom hated blacks. He hated Jews. He hated gays. And he hated me -- even though I was neither black nor Jewish. Luckily, Mrs. Watson was persistent. She called the school where the talent show was held and learned that I lived with my mother and stepfather, Faye and Ray Parker. Ray was listed in the phone book.

[The phone rings at the Parker home and FAYE PARKER answers it.]

FAYE : Have a Jesus Day! How may I help you?

MRS. WATKINS : I’m looking for a Clayton Grissom.

FAYE : Just a moment please. Clayton, there’s a woman on the phone who wants to talk to you.

CLAY : Women are icky.

FAYE : Someday you’ll change your mind about that. (She appraises him.) Or maybe not. But take the phone while I go fix Brett dinner.

CLAY : Hello?

MRS. WATKINS : Clayton, I’m Mrs. Watkins from the Boys’ Choir of Raleigh and I’d like you to audition for us.

CLAY (immediately begins singing) : “Somewhere, over the rainbow....”

MRS. WATKINS : No, honey, not over the phone. You’ll need to come down and sing for us in person.

[CLAY walks tenatively into the auditorium where the Boys’ Choir of Raleigh is rehearsing. The group is predominantly African American.]

MRS. WATKINS : Clayton, welcome! Did you bring your sheet music with you?

[CLAY hands his sheet music to the accompaniest and begins to sing.]

CLAY : Red and yellow and pink and green. Purple and orange and blue. I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.

MRS. WATKINS (blotting her face with a handkerchief) : That is just...beautiful...dear.

CHOIR BOY #1 : He sings like a little girl.

CHOIR BOY #2 : And he doesn’t have any soul!

CLAY (angrily) : Oh yeah? (Hands more sheet music to the accompaniest.) Hit it! (Begins to dance around the stage while singing:)

The ink is black, the page is white
Together we learn to read and write.
A child is black, a child is white
The whole world looks upon the sight, a beautiful sight!

And now a child can understand
That this is the law of all the land, all the land.

The world is black, the world is white
It turns by day and then by night,
A child is black, a child is white
Together they grow to see the light, to see the light.

And now at last we plainly see
We'll have a dance of Liberty, Liberty!

[Clay finishes by doing the splits and all the other choir boys gather around him, cheering, patting him on the back, and lifting him on their shoulders.]

MRS. WATKINS (triumphantly) : “That boy has some green-eyed soul in him and enough rocker to satisfy the most discriminating tastes!” Clayton Grissom, you are now the lead singer with the Boys’ Choir of Raleigh!

[This is followed by a montage of CLAY singing with the Choir. (Note : in all this snippets, Clay must be shown as singing lead vocals, as per the Lifetime contract with Mr. Aiken.) First he sings a few lines of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” while the other boys hum the background tune, then “Go Down, Moses,” followed by “God Bless the Child.” They finish with a spirited rendition of “Do-Re-Mi.” (Note: If Dakota Fanning cannot hit the final high note, please call in Quiana Parler for dubbing. Ms. Parler is known for singing the notes Mr. Aiken can’t reach in concert as well, and will probably do this for a minimal payment.) The choir’s rendition of “Do-Re-Mi” fades into just CLAY singing this song as he plays in his backyard with his family’s pet goat.]

CLAY: Listen Jimmy : “When you know the notes to sing, you can sing ‘most anything!” Aren’t I good? I can’t wait till our concert tomorrow. We’re even singing a special song about you goats in our “Sound of Music” medley. Want to hear it? “High on a hill was a lonely goatherd / Lay ee odl lay ee old lay hee hoo! / Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd / Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo!”

[With each line of the song, JIMMY THE GOAT bounds higher in the air, almost as if he’s dancing to the song. He romps back and forth across the yard, jumping high. On the last line, he runs toward the fence and leaps right over it. Suddenly there’s the sound-fx of brakes slamming and a crash. CLAY runs to the fence and sees JIMMY THE GOAT has been hit by a car. He runs out the gate and cradles JIMMY’s head in his lap.]

CLAY : Jimmy, Jimmy! Don’t die!

JIMMY : Bahhhh. (He dies.)

CLAY (crying) : It’s all my fault!

[The shadow of a man suddenly blocks the sunlight. It is RAY PARKER, CLAY’s abusive (but not racist) stepfather.]

RAY : It WAS all your fault, Clayton! I saw the whole thing out the back window! You killed Jimmy!!! Jimmy was my wedding gift to your mother! We were using his milk to feed Brett. Jimmy tended the grass in the backyard so I wouldn’t have to mow it. He was a dear and cherished member of our family. Next year I was going to slaughter him and sell the meat to send your mama to interior decorating school. And now look what you done!

[We hear the sounds of RAY punching and beating CLAY as the scene fades out; the scene fades in on MRS. WATKINS ministering to CLAY’s wounds much like his first music teacher did in the earlier section of the movie.]

MRS. WATKINS : Clayton, we can’t have you out there singing with two black eyes and all these bruises on your face.

CLAY : Not even with make-up to cover them? (He takes out a make-up box and tries to cover the bruises. It doesn’t work.) What if I use really dark make-up?

[Clay applies make-up to his face until he looks like he is African American.] CLAY’s VOICE OVER : Today they might call my actions racist. But it was just the opposite for me. I wasn’t making fun of anyone, nor was I putting anyone down. I wanted to BECOME black, just like my friends in the boys’ choir. I wanted to show my racist father that we are all the same. Mrs. Watson agreed!

MRS. WATSON (sobbing) : Clay, you have done more to erase racism in the south than anyone I’ve ever known.

CLAY : Well, Mrs. Watson, we can’t forget such important figures as Dr. King, Malcolm X, and so many others. I’m just one small the wheel of that sweet chariot...that will someday be coming for to carry ALL of us... black and white... red and yellow and pink and green... home.

MRS. WATSON : You are my hero, Clayton Grissom.

(A montage shows CLAY leading the Boys’ Choir through several songs. CLOSE-UPS of Mrs. Watkins, Faye Parker, and Ray Parker all cheering. However, in the back of the auditorium, VERNON GRISSOM is watching and seething. The scene fades out on the boys singing and fades in on the boys in their dressing room after the show. VERNON drunkenly enters the room.]

VERNON : Where is he? Where is he? No son of mine will ever pretend to be black!

[Clay switches off the lights in the dressing room and yells to the boys:] Don’t smile and he’ll never find you. Now let’s run!

[The boys all run out the back door into the alley and VERNON lurches out after them.]

VERNON : Which one of you is my son?

CHOIR BOY #1 (stepping forward) : I am your son.

[VERNON lurches toward him.]

CHOIR BOY #2 : I am your son.

[VERNON turns toward him.]

CHOIR BOY #3 : I am your son.

[VERNON turns around as, one by one, a dozen more boys step forward claiming to be Clay. Finally, Vernon, in confusion, stumbles away.]

CLAY’S VOICE-OVER : Racism in the south didn’t end that day, but I’d like to feel that the action of me and my fellow choir members -- my new FRIENDS -- played a small role in changing race relations in Raleigh, North Carolina. The times, they were a-changing.

[We hear a voice-over of Clay singing, “Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-” and his voice cracks on the final note. He tries it again and the same thing happens.]

CLAY : The times weren’t the only thing changing. So was my voice.

[Young Clay, played by Dakota Fanning, picks up a mirror and looks at it. The reflection reveals Teenage Clay, played by kd lang. The scene fades to a commercial.....]

To be continued.