Bird (1988) Script

Go, Bird!

You're awake.

I'm glad.

Halfway through the last set, guess who dropped in on me?

My ulcers.

I gave them some codeine and they wouldn't go away.

What else happened?

The strings, they went into the intro to "Easy to Love"...

...and I started playing...

... "If I Should Lose You."

Didn't fit.

Not even when I tried to make it fit.

It wouldn't fit.

Wouldn't nobody have noticed except for maybe...

...Dizzy Gillespie...

...but Dizzy Gillespie is on the road somewhere, far as I know.

But he would have chided me.

Is that all?


I'm grateful that you didn't bolt the door.

I expected that I was going to have to... my way back in here.

Did you get my note? I left it on the refrigerator.

What else happened?

What else?

About what you'd expect.


...he got one of the camera girls... take a picture of me... the midst of my disorientation.

Something to show the union.

I said:

"You don't give me that negative back...

...I don't work here no more."

So I don't work there no more.

To hell with them. I'm hungry.

Are you?

We have decided to humor him...

...this evening.

If he says that he's having pain from his ulcers...

...never mind that we don't believe it!

I believe it.

Work that psychology on him.

He's just an overgrown, goddamn adolescent anyway.

Dangerous when contradicted...

...but an adolescent.

God, you're weird.

God, I'm weird?

Is that what they say in Westchester?

I hear that Steinberg...

...he lives in Westchester.

"To hell with them?"

Why don't you stick up for your own people? Stick up for somebody!

This is getting ugly again. Maybe I should have bolted the door.

Don't let me mess up your plans. I'll bolt the door.

I got him.

I got him.

-I said I got him! -Don't touch him!

What you hitting me for like that? What do you think I had on my mind?



I'm sorry.

We just put one child in the grave.

Hey, don't.

What did you think I would do?

Forgive me. I was humoring you.

I'm sorry.

It's okay. It's okay.

-Guess what I did yesterday. -What?

I went to the lawyers...

...and I made a will.

And I left everything to you.

There's no harm in getting your affairs in order.

I don't want to hear about that will, man.

I can't do anything right anymore.

Do we have any Gelusil?

We sure do. Got a brand-new 50-gallon drum in the bathroom.

Come, fill the cup And in the fire of spring Your winter garment of repentance fling The bird of time Has but a little way to flutter And bird is on the wing.

That was stupid.

Now I'll have to call an ambulance.

Case number 1540:

Patient admitted to psychiatric at request of wife...

...following suicide attempt by ingestion of iodine.

Time: 5 a.m., September 1, 1954.

Patient has a past history of, quote, "nervous breakdown," unquote...

...for which he was hospitalized in California for eight months.

The wife says this attempt was related to depression...

...over the death of their daughter...

...and also by reverses in, quote, "his career," end of quote.

Apparently he's a musician.

-Where's he been put? -PQ-3, semi-agitative.

-What will you recommend? -His wife's coming in this afternoon.

What do you expect me to recommend?

Charlie Parker.

Let me go! Get off me!

Let me go!

Excuse me.

Too early, and you know it.

Did you see that?

I asked that...

...misguided, officious young woman...

...if she would administer my paraldehyde...

...and she demurred.


I am not a laboratory animal. I am in pain here.

Can't she see that?

Tell your troubles to somebody else.

Why? You're perfect.

Orderly! Orderly!

All right, calm down!

Come on. Come on.

Let him down. Let him go, let him go.

What is wrong with you people? Can't you see I'm in pain here?

When all else fails, what he'll do is provoke a fight.

If he can 't afford to get drunk, the substitute is pain.

It takes his mind off things for a while.

There was a time he could do that with conversation...

...but not since the ulcers started bleeding.

Are you employed?

No. No, he's a good provider.

I dance... nightclubs once in a great while.

Hardly at all these days.

I have two children at home.

What I'm getting at is the financial problem.

He needs medical treatment.

Not psychological.

Why did you call us then?

Charles Christopher Parker, Jr.

August 29, 1920.

You were an easy delivery. Turn that light on for me.

Now meet somebody.

That's you, my man.

Dead from it. Older than you'll be, because you started earlier.

So I give you 18 years, 20 on the outside.

I'm worse than a prophet.

I don't just have faith. I've seen it.

You've heard from my mother.

You believe me or not?

Why shouldn't I believe you?

Are you going to do something about it?

What do you expect me to do about it?

What do you expect me to do about it?

Nothing, just sign it.

I haven't done anything remotely like this in my life.


Yeah, but I got them all.

-The hell you do. -The hell I don't.

I got a stack of 78s this high.

This is death's door?

Half the city thinks you're crimped and you're signing autographs.

You didn't think so, little birdy.

Every time I turn around, you're supposed to be gone.

You'll bury us all and take our women with you.

So, what do you got there?

Whitman's chocolates.

Also, I think, some good news.

Can he eat these?

Better let me try one first.

First of all...

...Leighton will pay 1 00 bucks for five tunes written for saxophone...

...and before you jump on my ass...

...I told him I'm not collecting a commission on a sum that small.

It's all yours.

Thank you very much, Mr. Parker.

What's second?

Well, it's a little more long-range.

I ran into Chummy Morello yesterday.


He's thinking about leaving Woody and they want to send him on tour.

It wouldn't be till after the first of the year.

My God, Bernie, that's three months.

I know, I know, still....

Well, needless to say, he'd be honored to have you with him.

If I'm straight.

It's a legitimate concern.

You got three months to....

I'm trying. It's a good prospect.

Think about it.

Would you like a chocolate, doctor?

I've got to...

...redo the restraints.

You try and get some sleep.

Aren't you going to say "pleasant dreams," doc?

I think he would benefit from a state asylum...

...and from shock treatment.

Perhaps that sounds cold-blooded to you.

No, you sound cold-blooded to me.

All right.

But I promise you, if it were my brother, I'd shock him.

Would you? What does your brother do for a living?

I don't have a brother.

We're talking about a very special, creative man.

His livelihood depends on his ability to improvise and compose music.

See, that's not just dexterity. That comes--

-That's from being a-- -Mrs. Parker.

-Do you want a musician or a husband? -Look.

They do not separate.

I have a couple of chores.

Take a few careful minutes by yourself.

-Frankie! -How are you?

I got great photos to show you later. I'm not late, am I?

Good evening, professor. How you doing?

Here we are at the 18 Club. Yes, yes.

It's Harry "The Hipster" Gibson. Stop that shouting up there.

Art, you keep bringing in them stiffs from Oyster Bay...

...and not one got a dime for a tip. You're breaking my heart here.

Here we are on the street of dreams. Swing's the thing, jazz is the king.

You like it hot, you've come to the right place. Step in.

No cover, light minimum and Dixie till 4 a.m.

-Who could ask for more? -What are you doing?

-Give me a break. It's my birthday. -Get out of here.

Excuse me, sir.

Hey, sailor!

Come here.

You leave and don't see Miss Virginia Knight, you'll live to regret it.

She goes all the way for servicemen. Right down to the curlicues.

If you don't see pay dirt, I'll refund your money. Stiffs.

Good evening. Good evening.

Here we are at Poulez Roulez. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

-Get out of here. Get out of here. -Fuck you.

Art Tatum, the first show just started.

Yes, sir! First show just started.

I got one table left. You hurry, you can get it.

Go on in, tell them the Mayor sent you. Ask for Gino.

-Who's that? -Gino.

Yes, sir. Table near the door.

The 3 Deuces. B.S. Pulley, the funniest man in New York...

...with the dirtiest lines.

Bebop, the music of the future.

Give it a break. What do you got to lose? Oop-bop-sha-bam.

Oop-bop, my ass!

Hey, Buster!

You finally got a suit that fits you. Where you working?

-I'm back with Basie. -You going inside to hear the new guy?

There's 300 people in there. Half are saxophone players.

Ain't no new guy. That's just Dizzy Gillespie drumming up publicity.

I remember Parker from eight years ago in Kansas City...

...when he couldn't play "Come to Jesus" in whole notes.

Don't trifle with him.

He's played with Moten and you ain't done shit.

Just play a chorus and get off.

Come on here. Come on up here.

-What's your name? -Charlie.

-Who'd you play with? -Just around.

Ladies and gentlemen, this here's Charlie...

...from just around.

Not bad. Now get off.

Get off!


Ain't no new guy. It's Charlie, from just around.

Charlie from just around.

I remember when Don Byas was leaving Dizzy's group.

I knew the club 's press agent.

I asked him, "Who could you possibly get to replace Don?"

And he said, "Some cat in Kansas City. His name is Charlie Parker."

And I said, "Is he cute?"

And my friend said, "No, but you'll dig him."

All right, what do you think about Yardbird?

What do you think about Yardbird?

I won't sign.

We have to release him then.

Yes, you do.

Did you know that within three hours, a committee formed to get you out?

Get me out? How'd they know I was in?

It's a hell of a moment here.

-I finally made the front page. -I shouldn't have called Bellevue.

No, you did right. A little detox, it did me good.

I told you about Bernie?

Twenty bucks a tune, those bastards.

Wait till you hear the tunes.

But you know, this Morello thing... sounds good.

-If it wasn't so far off. -We'll get there.

Oh, by the way...

...Dizzy sent you a birthday card.

So I guess he's back.

Do you owe him a phone call?

I owe Dizzy everything.

Except a phone call.

He knows where to find me.

Who are you, the Good Humor man?

You wouldn't answer your knock.

Will you listen to this? Listen to this.

What the hell is going on?

It's 4 a.m. in the morning, you fool!

-You got a woman in there? -Yeah, I got a woman in there.

I married her so she'd stay in there with me.

Where's yours?

Hello, Lorraine.

Hello, Bird.

And if you coming in, I'm leaving.

-Will you write this down for me? -Why don't you?

I got no paper and people are waiting for me in the cab.

Write it down in the morning.

I won't be here in the morning. I'm going on the road from here.


Nice apartment. Maybe I went out on my own too soon.

-Where? Where are you going? -I don't know.

They know. Will you write this down for me?

If I get this gig in California, am I going to be able to find you?


Not supposed to be easy to score in California.


Got a gig. I gotta go.

Whenever you get to where you're going, call me. All right?

I thought I told you to shut him up.

-Good night. -Night.

-I thought you were in Philadelphia! -I was.

-What are you doing here? -I'm rehearsing.

-You got a dance job? -You bet.

That's nice. I was checking on a record date.

So you're looking splendid. When are you gonna marry me?

When you straighten up and walk like a jazz musician.

You want a bite of this? It's my third one.

I got gum. Maybe that's the secret.

To play like Bird, eat like Bird. All those 2 and 4 bar breaks.

What you mean is, I eat an awful lot for a junkie, don't I?

Don't tell me what I mean, man.

Sorry, man.

So how you come to know so much about music?

Will you talk to me?


My father produced nightclub shows.

Broadway Ben, they called him.

I had my sweet 16 party at the Cotton Club.

It's always been musicians.

You weren't seeing about any record date tonight.

No. And you knew I wasn't in Philly. Everyone knows I lost that gig.

-That's right. -That's right.

-So? -So?

So why are we conning each other?

Everyone assumes we're an item because I show up wherever you play.

You do?

I don't always say hello. And you don't usually leave alone either.

And while we're on the subject... many wives do you have?

I have met more women who claim to be...

...Mrs. Charlie Parker!

And all of them wearing rings!

Rings are cheap.

Rings are cheap?

Is that what you want to say? Is that all you want to say?

-What size ring you wear? -Oh, no. Not me.

Tell me more about Broadway Ben.

He had a way about him. The year I was born...

...he opened up a place on 58th Street across from the Plaza Hotel.

He called it the Club Grandeur.

-That way. -Is that where you lived?

Oh, no. By that time, I was in Westchester.


Westchester, why?

Nothing, I just like the way you say that. "Westchester, why?"

I wasn't typical in those days.

I'm half Jewish and my hero's Duke Ellington. I mean, wow!

And now who is it? Billy McNabb?

Oh, no. Billy's sexy and he's dangerous...

...but I don't buy his records.

But I didn't kill you.

Took me a while to get used to the sound...

...but you always killed me. I didn't think I had to say so.

You buy my records?


-Show me. -Pretty crude. Come.

Yardbird, Yardbird, man.

We were just talking about you.

-Was it good? -Always good, man. Always good.

Sid, what's going on?

Nothing. But if you don't treat that lady right, great as you are...

-...I'll kick you in the head. -Me and Sid took a liking to her.

Most of the cats did.

Every now and then, some sucker tries to turn her out...

...and that just gets me mad.

Frog, as great as you are, do I look like a pimp?

Ask me something else.

"Do I look like a pimp?"

Is the moon high?

He looks like a player.

Doesn't your mother mind these people cooling out here?

No, she's used to it.

And now... record collection.

Damn, be cool.

-I'm sorry. -You should be.

Maybe later.

It's all right. Can we just go find someplace where we can be alone?

-Why? -I haven't finished talking to you.

Well, there's the suicide room.

Let's go.

Aptly named.


Why don't you tell me some more about Westchester?

You live in a pretty house?

I had a room that looked out over a garden.

The night of my sixth birthday... father had the orchestra from his club...

...stand under that window and serenade me.

They played "Why Do I Love You."

That's nice.

That's real nice.

He had a way.

You walked me home.

You got me alone.

You managed to get me talking...

...and I've told you some of my girlish secrets.

But you haven't told me a thing.

What's going on?

There's one night in my life I never want to forget.

I never want to go through it again.

I was 1 5...

...and I woke up feeling more pain than I've ever felt.

I didn't know why until somebody told me I was strung out.

Somebody had to tell me that.

I always thought that...

...if I hadn't asked...

...then I wouldn't be.

You make me feel...

...very peaceful. You know?

You're not my type, man.

I know that.

Peaceful. Peaceful?

Is that what you mean by "rings are cheap"?

I don't want to make anybody feel peaceful, man.

I was born to drive men crazy!

Somebody told me...

...that I'm the only woman in New York that you haven't had.

I just made a simple statement.

Don't misunderstand me.

I appreciate the honor. It's not like I don't know who I'm talking to--

Stop it. You're embarrassing yourself.

I'm sorry.

But if you and me got together....

What I mean by my type--

Is the type that you don't have to be faithful to.

I know that.

Everybody says you're a mind reader.

I am?

And I'm going to Chicago.

And you're sorry that you can't take me



And you quit reading my mind!

Thank you on behalf of the band.

And now we're going to leave you in the very capable hands...

...of the Margie Hyams quintet.

-Wait here. -Right.

Sounded good, Bird.

How would you know? You weren't out front.

You always sound good.

So, what do you know?

I don't know you, for one thing.

But you're waiting for me.

The guy you're waiting for sent me instead. What's the difference?

About six months.

And Kentucky's cold this time of year. I'll pass on that.

You think I'm on the squad or something?


What squad?

That's too much.

You know, I never forget a face.

You having a big night, Esteves?

We pinched a few here and there. Not yours, but he's heard about it.

Where you going?

I don't know. Take it personally.

Watch out. The nabs are out tonight.

Good night.

Mrs. Berg. You like what I played tonight?

I'm not a music critic.

You could play "Star Eyes." It wouldn't kill you.

I'll be happy to do that for you.

And your lovely daughter, is she still in Chicago?

My lovely daughter is still in Chicago.

Till when?

-Bird-- -You know...

...l have my ways of finding these things out.

I just want to welcome her back, you know?

Like Broadway Ben would.

Where are we going?

What's-her-name didn't ask Valentino that.

Vilma Bánky, and he had her in front of him and she was in a swoon.

Now, you see?

-I got a way about me too. -I'll say.

That's Bird. Charlie Parker.

-Charlie Parker. -Where?

This music is so corny.

You got to stop running away from honest sentiment.

-Am I running? -Yeah.

I remember when I first met you... looked so young, it scared me.

You awake?

You awake?

God, you make me feel so peaceful.

I feel like a coward too because...

..I love you and I don't think I could say that if you was awake.


You making out you're asleep, like a kid?

Good thing it's dark, huh?

You didn't say how much you liked the road.

I'm going on the road again. To Hollywood, back with Dizzy.

I hear things about it that make me jumpy.


Stuff's not easy to find, for one thing.

Tough cops.

We'll be the first to play the new sound.

I don't know how they'd like that.

What about keeping me company?

Oh, yeah.

Hunt for drugs during the day...

...and lead the applause at night.

What are you so mad at?

Who's mad?

I'm not mad.

I'm pregnant.

You know how to flatter a guy.

You could give yourself a couple of hours before you decide that.

Billy McNabb?


Nobody you know.

Nobody I know well enough to ever want to see him again.


What now?

Oh, my God.

Do you realize I haven't told my mother and I've told you?

You could've told me a little bit sooner.

If men could get pregnant, how many kids would you have... now?

Chan, Chan, Chan.

That's me.

I got to go. I got a gig across the street before I go to Hollywood.

Where's your horn?

I'll borrow one.

Excuse me.

When you going to California?

Couple of days.

Take care of yourself.

Oh, no.

He hocked his horn... rent that damn horse.

Contributing factors to patient's nervous breakdown... California, winter 1946, were as follows:

A: Disorientation due to unfamiliar surroundings.

B: Disappointing public reaction, bordering on hostility...

... to patient's particular style of music.

C: Reduced availability of narcotics due to police crackdown.

Any way I can help?


See, I'm getting on right now.

Yeah, I know.

You know?

The less you know about getting on, the better off you be.

Another thing, junior.

If I ever hear about you using this shit...

...l will come from my grave and I will haunt you.

Have we met?

No, sir.

My name's Rodney.

You play, Rodney?

Yeah, I'm with Krupa.

Do you play?


Then you came here to see Dizzy play.

I took the job touring instead of staying in Philadelphia...

...because the tour came to L.A. and I knew you'd be here.

Yeah, I came to hear you.

Well, all right!

Well, then, I'm sorry that I kept you waiting.

-A good crowd in there? -So-so.


We don't get many good crowds out here.

They'll catch on.

It took me awhile.

I thought I wanted to be Harry James.

Yeah, well, I want to be Harry James sometimes.

Listen to that.

You know, Audrey, if we could really hear every sound in the world...

...we'd go crazy.

He must be.

Crazy, you know?

He always looked fairly normal to me.

Yeah, well, I'm talking about Stravinsky.

So am I. We go to the same dentist.


He lives around here?

Yes, and Schönberg and Heifetz...

...and Huxley and Thomas Mann.

The climate is advantageous.

He lives there.

Pull up over there. Pull up.

What time is it?

-It's almost 10. Won't you be late? -The lights are on. He's there.

Bet he's in there.

Let's go.

I ought to get me a house like that.

What's stopping you?


What happened? I'm not that late.

No audience, man.

The bar's open, the engagement's over.

I guess they weren't quite ready to be invaded.

So, anyway...

...we'll take a plane home. I got your ticket here.

What is that?

We had a radio gig tomorrow.

We did, Yard, we did.

But the station joined in the ban.

"Bebop tends to pervert young minds."

Who said that?

Somebody with enough juice to get 12 radio stations to turn us off.

So we going home tomorrow.

How about you?

Look, a ban like that can't last forever.

We got an audience here, I know we do. We just got to stick it out.

You gonna hang out here awhile?

Can't go back to New York right now.

What about my salary?

What salary?

Yard, there have been a few advances drawn.

Last week you borrowed $20 and kissed me on my lips when I gave it to you.

You don't remember things like this.

I don't have to remember. I know you wouldn't lie to me.

Listen, just make sure somebody has your number...

...and don't stay away too long.

Very nice, Charlie. Very nice.

He's clean.

The dope in L.A. dried up so he had to kick.

That nearly killed him, so he stayed drunk.

That's how he got sent to Camarillo where he hasn't had a drink...

...snorted or shot for six months. He's clean and ready to work.

-According to him. -No.

According to his record producer in L.A.

See, what he needs is a gig out of the state.

-No. -For God's sake, Sammy!

You hire one Charlie Parker imitation after another.

I'm telling you, the real thing's available!

The real thing's a real pain in my ass.

Listen. Let's play a game.

I'll count to 100 slowly.

By the time I'm done, name me one other musician...

...who can pack this club who isn't a pain.

Let alone, I mean, my God...

...we're talking about Charlie Parker.

I'll pay 700 a week.

Wait a minute, wait, wait.

That's for him, a second horn and a rhythm section.

If he handles it right, he'll clear a couple hundred.

Three-week guarantee.

You're wonderful.

I thought the fountain of youth was in Florida.

Everybody says that to me.

I learned something.

They can get it out of your blood.


But they can never get it out of your mind.

I appreciate what you did for me.

I will never, ever forget it.


Don't what?

Don't be humble.

Anybody else but you.

Chan, when a convict's on the street after a long time away...

...he's careful...

...not humble.

Learn to say, "You're welcome."

You're welcome.

Will you stop trying to look for a place to run?

I just came here to say thanks. That's all.

The rest of it will wait.

I'm going to go find me a quintet and get started.

Take a look at her, at least.

Well, who could blame me now?

What's your name, little one?

My name is Kim.

What's yours?

Welcome home from the hospital, Daddy.

How'd you know I was in the hospital, shorty boodle?

I read it in the newspaper.

Didn't you know you're famous? Are you all better?

He's all better. Is Grandma cooking supper?

Yeah, but she calls it dinner. She says supper's for after the show.

She got that right. I'll be right up.

Where you going?

Who's that?


How you feeling?

You read the hospital report, I didn't.

Get in, let's go for a ride.

I have a car.

It's getting a ring job on the FDR Drive.

Want to know when your wife brought it in?

Or the serial number on the engine?


Get in the goddamn car.

I've been on your case 10 years now. I never seen you worse.

You can't play more than three nights a month in New York...

...and New York's the only place you can work.

Not an owner on the road will take the chance anymore.

You blew a three-nighter at 1:00 this morning.

I talked with Steinberg.

He's ready to wash his hands of you for good.

You talked to Steinberg.

You're sick, Bird.

You're an alcoholic, you're a junkie...

...and your mind is hanging by a fucking thread.

Yeah, right. Right.

It's possible I could change some attitudes about your cabaret card.

I think that would make a difference in your situation. lt'd make a world of a difference, wouldn't it?

I can give you three, four names...

...all junkies.

Once you nail them, wouldn't be no more heroin in New York City.

Let me out of this goddamn car.

They wouldn't think twice about doing it to you.

It's time to save your life.

This is the year I'm supposed to die.

You missed dinner.

How about supper?

I'm sorry. I just went for a walk.

Were you worried?

What do you want me to say?

Who was that man?

Somebody from this world.

Nobody I ever want you to concern yourself about.

It's dirty.

It's dirty.

Where do you think I've lived my life till I met you?

It's my wish that you remain my child wife.

Would you do that for me?

You've switched from Bette Davis movies to Jane Eyre.

Come on home and eat, Rochester.

After a while.

Remember, you've got five tunes to write.

Listen to me, the voice of duty.

Oh, and guess what?

Steinberg sent us a check.

We'll be okay for two weeks.


That's me.

Don't ever leave old Pop.

He won't drink any more iodine...

...and he loves you.

I know.

I read the note on the refrigerator.

It's a nice, tight room. Good acoustics.

Better than anything that ever was on 52nd Street.

Buck and a quarter admission, 2.50 minimum at the tables.

They're booked up the first week and they haven't even opened yet.

Why name it after me?

Who the hell else could they name it after?

Don't you like the idea?

I like the idea. I'm flattered by it actually.

I'm overwhelmed.

I just wish it was tonight because I'm broke...

...and I'm trying to hold on to my rhythm section and stuff.

I'll lean on the record company. Maybe they want you in Paris.

Looks like you need something better than a rose.

What the fuck you want to go back to New York for?


Yeah? "Because."

You know, I been here four years.

I work 10 months out of the year. More, if I want to.

Go to Belgium, Holland, Sweden.

You could do the same thing.

You know, I don't go for that shit you people play...

...but over here, they are crazy about it.

Now, you don't get rich, but you live.

And they treat you like a man.

Now, what you got to go back to?

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. They named a place after you.

How much of that place do you own?

When the gig is over, you still be scuffling to find the next one.

If there is a next one.

You can't earn no living...

...playing jazz... the States.

Diz can.

Duke can.

Well, you ain't Diz and you sure as hell ain't Duke.

And they ain't me. What the hell does that matter?

I'm not talking about what you do on the bandstand.

Everybody said you the man.

Well, that's great.

Until you mess up.

And you always mess up.

You mess up over there, you'll be in trouble so deep...

...they won't let you play in the goddamn place they named after you.

Now, am I lying?

There's no law that says I have to mess up.

And I'm not running away from my own country.

Your country?

Yeah, mine.

Whether they like it or not, it's mine.

There'll be a Birdland in every city one day.

There'll be a Birdland in Chicago, in Detroit...

...a Birdland across the street from Camarillo.

I'm the liberator of Paris and you're a motherfucking afterthought!

Oh, shit!

You saying...

...Diz and Duke on one side...

...and junkies on the other.

So I kick.

I can kick!

Junior, Junior.

Other than that, we got nothing until next Friday.

What's next Friday?

Some sort of benefit. Some Communist in jail or something.

Hey, we get paid.

How much do we get paid?

Just hold out with me. In a month, we open up Birdland.

What do I eat in the meantime?

Harry James.

Meet Billy.

John Wilson. Rodney.

Red Rodney.

What are you doing in New York, Red Rodney?

I've been here for a year now.

Why you didn't call me? I want to hear you play.

I wasn't ready for you to hear me.

He wasn't ready to hear him play.

And now you're ready?

How you been doing, then?

I've been doing mostly society stuff.

That's right. Plenty of society for some people.

How come nobody calls me for no society gigs?

I can play that shit.

Well, it's a special type of society.

-For dancing, right? -Yeah, dancing, but not the fox trot.

You're looking for a gig? Everybody?

I mean, not you.

Why not me?

I came in here looking for people, but I never--

Shit, why not?

Two o'clock, this afternoon.

In Brooklyn. A wedding.




These are not Jewish boys, but good.

-A very nice affair. -Don't ask.

Don't ask.

So what's this Chudnick?

That's what I'm talking about.

Chudnick. That's my real name. So where you cats headed?

Don't ask. Don't ask!


I just want to know...

...still the most gorgeous woman alive?


I'm retired.

But I like that you never give up.

I take it he's there?

Is he all right?

He's holding his stomach. Is that from...?

No, no, that's ulcers.

He'll probably spend the night.

Thanks, Red.

Don't tell him I called you. I mean, don't tell him you called me.

Don't worry. Get some sleep.

Good night.


The last man to ever get me a society gig.

That's me.

What are you doing here?

-Let's get a drink. -Right.

-Did you really eat a rose? -I ate whatever I could get.

I heard you said it was dessert.

It was.

I don't know why I came back. Birdland still ain't open.

But I got this beautiful gig.

Calls for a quintet. I need a trumpet player.

Scotch on the rocks.

Club soda. How long you been listening?

I know a trumpet player when I hear one.

There's so many better ones. There's Navarro, Kinney--

I'm offering the job to you.

We start off with a tour. Ten nights. $ 150 per man.

-Per night. -Really? That's great. Where?

South. We drive.

Fresh air, scenery...

...unsophisticated pussy.

You don't get that with Woody Herman.

Georgia, Alabama...

...Mississippi, Tennessee.

Deep South? With a mixed band?

We get lynched!

I got it covered.

Here we are.

There's Uncle Remus over there.

Bird, what are you doing? Where the hell are we?

We are in the South now.

Your mama's up there. We're supposed to be in the South.

-Your mother's over there! -You know I don't play that.

Ain't it great to be home, fellas?

-Thank you, Bird. -Look at this.

I'm opening up a new world to you.

Pull up. I want to talk to the manager.

Where will they put us up?

Man, you know where they'll put us up. Some goddamn funky rat hole.

Except you, Red.

You'll probably find yourself a good hotel in every town.

I don't think so.

Red, you gonna be right down in the funk with us.

Bird done covered it, all right.

Are you crazy? Nobody will believe I'm an albino!

I do. Whoever heard of a Jewish cat playing trumpet the way you do?

Cut the crap! I can't sing. I got a voice like a dying animal!

Anybody can sing the blues! All you got to do is sing one blues every set.

Go to sleep now. That's your room.

What if they find out?

-Who? Your people or my people? -That's funny.

Go inside. Wake me up in two hours and don't wander off nowhere, boy.

I gotta keep up the correct impression, you know?

Oh, Jesus.

Yeah, I'd almost forgotten.

Get some rest, nigger. These people want to dance.

You folks go upstairs.

You can get a drink up there.

At this time... is my privilege... bring to the microphone a young man...

...who, in a short space of time, has become a legend.

Born at the geographical center of the universe...

... 125th Street and Lenox Avenue.

I saw him at the Apollo and I had to have him with us.

Not just because he brings us luck. No!

But because while the Lord didn't see it fit to give him no pigment...

...he made up for it by endowing him with the spiritual inheritance...

...of Jefferson and Broonzy.

And now, without further ado, I bring to you...

...Albino Red!

I play at your wedding, you play at mine.

This is great. One more chorus.

What happened after that?

No, not Henry! No!

Mr. Rodney?

Follow me.

-When did it start? -Last night.

But I've had it previously.

I felt a little twinge the other day, but I didn't think that's what it was.

Give us a sample, if you can.

So you've had hematuria previously.

What's that?

Blood in your urine.

Oh, yeah. My doctor keeps talking about removing the stones.

I should let him.

-When you going home? -Day after tomorrow.

I was stupid to leave my pain pills in New York...

...but it's been a while since it's flared up.

Well, two days, a dozen Empirin with codeine ought to do it.

My doctor wrote for Dilaudid.


For a kidney stone?

I'm an ethical man.

And, fortunately for you, I'm a compassionate one.

Mr. Parker, it's Red.

Chud, what are you doing?

Oh, God.

Not you, man.

Why not me?

If you want to play like Bird... gotta shoot shit like Bird?

Is that what you thought? Is that what they told you?

I don't remember.



It don't help, man.

It don't help.

Don't you know that?

I know now.

It's not your fault.

I know a thousand guys who fix.

A thousand, easy.

I've seen better-looking heads on a boil.

What about that thing? I won't tease you.

You got some of that, didn't you?

Hey, Red.

I sounded better than that. They loved me. I got bookings.

Never had this much money coming back from a tour.

-How much money? -We must have $ 7500 between us.

-You got more than me. -What?

Eighty-five. We had a cut on admissions over 500.

And we went over four times.

That's your money, Bird.

-No, I'm splitting it five ways. -Shit!

That's what I'm talking about! You gonna split that?

Don't go signifying that way.

It's about time this band got organized.

Thank you.

That's not so hard, is it, John?

Man, it's good to be home.

Don't bother me now, I'm flipped.

Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for the man of the century.

Look, Nica made it.

Don't you know about her? She's a baroness.

She's got a thing for jazz musicians, but it isn't sexual.

I should hope not.

Billy here, he's a jazz musician. Would you fuck him?

You were an absolute gas, as usual.

My name's Nica.

-Delighted. -Hello, Nica.

What do you think about Bird?

I live at the corner of 40th and 3rd.

But originally I'm from Philly. You been there?

Yes, I have.

Scotch and milk.

I'll catch up with you later.

Sure. I'll see you then.

Yeah, best three weeks we ever had.

You notice anything different these last three weeks?

You're drinking more than I've ever seen you.

Yeah, but do you know why?

I can guess.

You're trying to kick.

I'm not trying.

I've been on for 15 years.

Now, if I can kick, then you can kick.

I hear you, and I appreciate what you're getting at.

Red Rodney, the next Charlie Parker.

It's not your fault. Nobody blames you.

You expect to see 40?

Bird, I'm in the wrong frame of mind for questions like that.

Hey. You expect to see 40?

I'm different.

Hi, Red.


-How's the boss? -Better than ever.

That ain't my kind of music.

Roll up your sleeves.

You'll find marks there.

-That's internal possession. -No such thing in this state.

That you can argue with the magistrate. In the meantime, I got to do my job.

Let's take him in.

Why do you go through this every time?

What do you mean?

What are you suggesting?

-It was 50 bucks last time. -You were out of work.

Now you're with the king of bebop, and you just got paid.

What? How do you know I was just paid?

How many people are in on this, you son of a bitch?

I wouldn't expect that of a nice Jewish boy. That's more your style.

What's he looking at, Bernie?

It's federal. That means at least a year.

Now, there's several possibilities.

Think about a different horn for a change.

Maybe a trombone.

There's another possibility.

Like maybe a quintet isn't the way to go right now.

That was lovely. Thank you very much.

Smooth as butter and sweet as a little sister's ass.

You're still the greatest, man.

Been away too long.

Hey, Yard, what about that chick you used to run with? Chan?

She's the mother of three lovely children.

We're a sandwich, Daddy.

Are you gonna eat us up?

Bird doesn't eat sweets, my love.

You know...

...if I do another strings album...

...I'm gonna see if I can get Mario to do the vocal.


Let's go say hello to Pree.

Is she any better today?

She went to the radio and turned it on by herself.

She went to the radio? Did she walk to the radio?

Kim and Baird's tunes were on the radio. Write one for Pree.

Did she walk to the radio?

If she walked, I would've run to the studio and shouted it out.

How's she doing on keeping her food down?

I won't read you a medical report.

I'm reminding you you have a daughter.

Mrs. Parker, you're being very salty this evening.

Should I kiss her?

Should you kiss her?

I meant that if I kiss her and she wakes up before she needs to...

...then that's more trouble for you.

I know.

No, don't wake her up.

You should kiss me.

We're packing in the magic violins for a while.

Gonna play me a couple of weeks in Me-land.

I'll hire Billy McNabb. I'm sure you'd like to see him.

Testing me.

I gotta go sign contracts.

That's great.

Nobody signs contracts at 7 at night.

I know!

I shouldn't have asked him to go in there, that's all.

Hey, look who's uptown.

You know where I can get me some stuff?

Mr. Parker...

...if you ever have the urge to stick a needle in your arm again...

...take your horn out into the woods and blow.

Three months suspended sentence.

Your Honor...

...a conviction would mean the loss of my cabaret card.

The woods would be the only place I can play, at least in this city.

You have the right to appeal.

Sir, I have a 2-year-old daughter...

...who needs medical attention several times a week.

Is it possible...

...that you could put me in jail...

...and let me pay my debt to society...

...and then reinstate my cabaret card, sir?

That's not the way it works, Mr. Parker.

-But all I'm-- -Thank you, Your Honor.

Thanks, Bernie.


It's cool.

They won't pay for a group. Just me.

That's all right.

There's some decent cats in L.A. these days.

Don't go.

Give me a better idea.

Damn it! All the records you've sold!

I made them, pudding. Somebody else done sold them.

You could use a vacation from me.

Hold this home together.

We both want to do that, right?

You and your George Brent dialogue.

George Brent, huh?

Maybe he'll come into the club one night.

I got a Gabby Hayes autograph last trip.

Did he get yours?

Yeah, sure.

He says:


...I sure as hell am partial to them flatted fifths of yours.

Play me that there 'Klactoveedsedstene' one more time, partner.

I tell you, nobody can improvise...

...a diminished ninth from the tonic like a full-blooded Negro."

Hey, that's my solo.

He wrote words to that?

Haven't you heard that?

-It's crappy. -No, I want to hear it.

I want to hear it.

Chudnick could've used that one.

It was a great solo and I hate the idea.

Come on, let me hear this.

She'd only bring herself down So long, everybody The time has come and I must leave So if I see your smiling face again Make a promise you'll remember Like a Christmas day in December That I told you all Through thick and thin On up until the end Parker's been your friend Don 't hang your head when you see When you see those six pretty horses Pullin ' me Put a $ 20 silver piece On my watch chain Look at the smile on my face Sing a little song To let the world know I'm really free Cry for me 'Cause I'm going to Kansas City

Got any idea... much a $20 silver piece would weigh?

I didn't hear that. I was thinking about what a great solo it was...

...and what this man has done to it.

-I think it's terrible. -Chan.

Don't ever let them send me back to Kansas City.

Bird, look, you got a gig?

I'm gonna get there. Eventually.


They found me this trio to play with.

They're more scared of me than the owner and they're shit-scared of him.

I'll get to the job, Birks. I'll get to the job.

I always get to the job.

So I'm late, so what?

So I'll play a couple extra hours.

We'll have a taste...

...and then I'll find me a lady, then I'll get to the job.


What's the matter?

Ain't it a bitch?

I go to a liver doctor and I pay him $50.

And it don't help me.

I go to an ulcer doctor...

...same thing, except I pay him 75.

But I go to some little cat up in a house somewhere and pay him $ 10...

...for a bag of shit and a little peace... ulcers don't hurt, liver don't hurt.

My heart trouble is gone.

And this is the man I'm supposed to stay away from?

Mr. Gillespie, my comrade in arms...

...that is what I call...

...a paradox.

Give her to me.

I have an important question that can't wait. Is she baptized?


It's just you and me and the water. Just tell me the secret.

I'm not having an easy time talking to you tonight.

Don't talk, just tell me the secret.

What secret?

I know my own secrets, just like you know yours.

What you're really asking is... come when I'm supposed to hit at 9:30, I hit at 9:30?

How can I land on a cat I love as much as I love you...

...and then fire his ass for showing up late or stoned?

Why I can hold a group together? Why I'm a leader?

That's what I'm asking.

Because they don't expect me to be.

Because, deep down, they like it if the nigger turns out unreliable.

Because that's the way they think it's supposed to be.

And because I won't give them the satisfaction of being right.

Here we are.


I'm a reformer, you trying to be a martyr.

They always remember the martyrs longer.

They gonna talk about you when you're dead, Bird.

More than they do now.

They gonna shovel you under like they love to do.

They gonna talk about you.

My secret.

My secret is, if they kill me... won't be because I helped them.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your patience.

And once again, please accept my heartfelt apologies...

...for being unavoidably detained.

Right now, we'll take a short break and we will be back shortly.

You got a message. Call home.

Telegram to Mrs. Chan Parker...

... 151 Avenue B, New York City.

My darling...

...the news of our daughter's death...

...surprised me more than it did you.

Do not fulfill funeral proceedings until I get there.

I shall be the first one to walk with you into the chapel.

Forgive me for not being... the hospital with you.

Yours most sincerely...

... your husband...

... Charlie Parker.

Western Union?

Telegram to Mrs. Chan Parker...

... 151 Avenue B, New York City.


...for God's sake, hold on to yourself.

Charlie Parker.

Western Union?

Telegram to Mrs. Chan Parker...

... 151 Avenue B, New York City.




Charlie Parker.

This is a telegram... Mrs. Chan Parker...

... 151 Avenue B, New York.

My daughter's dead.

I know it.

I'll be there right away.

My name is Bird.

It's very nice out here.

People have been very nice to me out here.

I'll be there right away.

Take it easy.

Let me be the first one to approach you.

I'm your husband.


... Charlie...


Case number 1540. Patient admitted to psychiatric at request of wife...

...following suicide attempt by ingestion of iodine.

Time: 5 a.m., September 1, 1954.

Patient has a past history of nervous breakdown...

...for which he was hospitalized in California for eight months.

The wife says this was related to depression...

...over their daughter's death...

...and also by reverses in, quote, "his career"...

...end of quote.

Can't sleep either, huh?

Yeah, I'm giving up all my bad habits.

So, what do you think of this...

...Chummy Morello?

He wants me to tour with him and some singers.

Chummy Morello.

-Violet Welles. -Who?

No, no. See, you don't know her. You're too young.

She's probably dead by now.

But Violet....

"The vibrant Violet of song," they billed her at the Apollo.

This is the chick I was playing behind when I found my style.

I was just backing her up. I didn't even have a regular gig.

I was just washing dishes and jamming after hours.

Of course that's before I became...

...the titanic commercial success that you see sitting before you.

That's before I captured the fancy...

...of the adoring public.


But I started playing these little....

These figures behind her, see?

And they fit with the song...

...but it was like going inside the melody.

And she says, right on the stage...

...she says:


--don't be playing that shit behind me while I'm trying to sing.

After that, a little later on... and the piano player, we got together...

...and we were working on "Cherokee."

Now, this was a song that I had played 10,000 times...

...and I was sick of this song.

But I found this new way...

...of extending the chord changes... it was like a whole new song.

And it still fit.

I've been trying to do this since they gonged me off the Reno Club.

The bridge of "Cherokee."

That's the bridge I crossed...

...two days before Christmas...

... 1939.

What a Christmas present.

Anyway-- And that's why you're sitting there...

...listening to me...

...instead of being Red Hot Rodney from Gene Krupa's band.

So what you think about Chummy Morello?

I figure a good 16-week tour...

...I could pay a lot of bills.

-Jesus, what are we talking about? -What are you doing?

I'm talking about a musician making a living.

That's what I'm talking about.

Look, don't cry for me.

You can kick me in the ass--

Come on.

Kick me in the ass. Kick me in the ass!

Kick me in the ass!

You're so fucking dramatic all the time.

You ought to go into show business.

Violet Welles.


What's wrong? What are the police doing here?

You okay?

During the night, somebody came in and took some clothes, suitcases.

-Kids? -They're good, good.

I was just thinking...

...what if we got out of New York for a while?

My mom's got a house she can't rent.

It'll cost us close to nothing...

...and it's not far from Westchester.

Junkies dream their lives away...

...just thinking about living in places like this.

What was I think about, pudding?



What is this?


"Sheep May Safely Graze."

Did you get my prescription filled?


Morello, he says he's going out of town for a month.

And he wonders...

...if I might get together with him...

...bring my ax, maybe go over a few tunes.

A few ideas.

Bring my ax.

You see that? You see that? He wants to audition me.

I don't believe that.

He wants to see if I can hold it and stand up at the same time.

I couldn't yesterday.

I might not be able to today.

You know, if you took the train, you could sleep longer.

Well, Bernie said something about a gig in Boston.

And they don't pay my airfare these days.

I'm rested.

Gotta go.

Girls! Girls! Girls!

One show-- Hi, Birdy.

What happened here? All the clubs turned into strip joints.

You think this is bad, you should see what's going on at Paramount.


That's a movie and a stage show, like always.

Not like always. Never again.

Girls! Girls! Girls!

Come on and see the lovely Suzette!

Bird, what's going on?

When did Buster start playing rhythm and blues?

Ain't no such thing as rhythm and blues.

DJs don't like to call it that. This is rock 'n' roll.

Music of today. Yeah! Go!

It don't fit. All this off of playing in B-flat?

You figure it out. B flat tonight, F sharp tomorrow.

12 notes in the scale.

Buster's got 12 different shows without repeating once.

It don't fit.

All right, let's hear it for Buster Franklin!

Everybody, everybody--

All right, here you go.

Give me that.

Chan said he was driving down.

-Could be he got stuck in-- -Traffic.


I don't want to hurt you, but I will. Now let go! Let go!

Everybody said you flipped out. What are you, a goddamn thief?

I just wanted to see if it could play more than one note at a time.


You want money?

Never mind.

Never you mind.

Come on, come on.

Damnedest thing.

The damnedest thing!

I couldn't remember where I parked my car.

And my horn is in the back of the car.

I'd have called you, but I couldn't remember the number. I couldn't.

Storyville in Boston, three nights starting tomorrow.

House band, 400 bucks.

-What did he say? -What do you think?

"Get me somebody half as good who shows up."

I showed up.

Yeah, you always do.


Bernie, this is the studio where we recorded the Metronome All-Star day.

-You remember? -Yeah.

The trumpet section was...




Poor Fats.

You know, he wasn't in good health.

He died right after that.

When you didn't show up, I called Chan.

She was worried. Maybe you ought to give her a ring.


Storyville. Copley Square.

Boston. Massachusetts.


-Operator. -Operator? Operator?

This is a collect call.

-Hello? -Collect call from Charlie Parker.

Will you accept?

Yes, I will.


Hello, pudding?

Pudding, are you there?

Are you there?

Oh, my God.

I was....

I just had an awful dream.

I told you time and again... stop indulging so frequently in overly spiced food.

The spices'll kill you.

Will you get the hell out of there and come home?

I can't let my Boston audience down. I can't come home right now.

You know, I still do have an audience here.

You didn 't ask about Morello.

Well, that's shop.

How long is this Boston gig?

I should be home around Monday.

You know, you might as well take care of that lawn in the meantime.

It's like a jungle out there.

The lawn?

Oh, yeah, sure.

And you remind me...

...when I get home...

...I want to paint that garage.

You know, if you have a home...

...the least that you can do for that home is maintain it.

Have you got any medication?

I got everything.

I hate to hang up.

You didn't always, you know.


You need me to get evil with you?


Get evil.


I don't think sitting up is the thing just yet.

You fainted.

Very undignified of me.


You're always welcome here.

No matter what the condition.

Give me Chan's phone number and I'll ring her up later.



And no doctor.

I've already phoned the doctor.

When was the last time you fainted?

Don't know.

Been a while though.

You should be in a hospital.

I don't ever want to go back to the hospital again, doc.

You drink a good deal?

Sometimes I have a little sherry before dinner.

He should be in the emergency room, not here.

Tell me it'd help him and I'll take him.

Help him? He's got a history of advanced cirrhosis...

...perforated ulcers, insult to the heart...

...and I'm fairly sure he's bleeding internally.

It's you I'm trying to help, Nica.

I'll phone you if there's a change.

There won't be.

Good night.

You've drunk it all.

That's what I call a prodigious thirst.


That's nice.

What do you think about Yardbird?

I'm not mad.

That's you, man.

Hi, I'm Chan Richardson.

Has Mildred come in yet? I can't reach her at home.

When she does, tell her to phone me immediately.

And tell her I need to reach Chan right away.

I'll fill you in later.

Barbara, I got another one after this so get down the preliminary...

...I'll give you the full report tomorrow.

Charles Christopher Parker, Jr.

Preliminary diagnosis: heart attack.

Stocky, male, Negro...

...approximately 65 years of age.