Summary: The studio executives have two problems. First, one of their stars wants to leave a hugely successful show. Second, his fans won’t allow it.
Approximately 1,600 words. Rating: PG.
THE ROBERTS DILEMMA
Scene: Office of Studio Executive #1 at Paramount.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE #1: Sheesh, what a friggin’ nightmare. Have you seen all this mail?
STUDIO EXECUTIVE #2: Unbelievable. You’d think we were looking to cut off Landon’s hair from the way these girls are screaming.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE #3: Oh, it’s not that bad. I mean, Landon’s fans are crazy as loons. If we messed with his hair, they’d blow the place up.
SE #2: You think they know he dyes it? Seriously—young guy like that, and he’s almost completely gray.
SE #3: How do you know?
SE #2: His new contract. There’s a line item for hair color.
SE #3: At least he has hair. Better than—
SE #1: Can we focus? We have a lot bigger problems than buying Landon some Miss Clairol. What the hell are we gonna do about Roberts?
SE #3: It’s not like we can keep him here against his will. There are laws about that. My nephew’s in law school—he says it’s called “involuntary servitude” or something like that.
SE #1: You think we don’t know? That’s why we did that whole story arc with the whiny blonde and the kid. He was supposed to get married, ride off into the sunset, and live happily ever after—and you saw what happened.
SE #1: Don’t remind me. I thought Landon’s fans were nutty, but these people . . . . (shudders)
SE #3: Man, did they hate that girl—Kathie what’s-her-name. I didn’t think she did a half-bad job, but I swear if her and Adam had gotten married, there’d have been a crowd outside the gates waiting to stone her.
SE #1: Frankly, I like Kathie. I think she does good work. When we had her married to that tax guy and Hoss delivered her baby, everybody liked her fine.
SE #2: And nobody had a problem when she was in that other episode and Hoss was in love with her. Even though she broke his heart, nobody really complained. Maybe because we killed her that time, and they figured she got what she deserved.
SE #3: Blocker’s fans are just easier to handle. They’re too busy making up recipes for Hoss to be any real bother.
SE #2: What about Greene? Does he even have any fans?
SE #3: Cripes, shut up! If he hears you said anything like that, his agent’ll be in here screaming.
SE #1: Again with the focusing, okay? I don’t give a crap about Greene’s feelings right now. Roberts’s agent is gonna be here tomorrow morning, and we’ve gotta have a plan for how we’re gonna exit him from the show, or he’s gonna walk out and we’re the ones who are gonna have hell to pay with the fans.
SE #2: You wanna know what’s weird? When we were gonna get Adam married off, it was the girl the fans hated. Not him.
SE #1: So?
SE #3: Why would they hate him for getting married?
SE #2: Just hear me out. The one thing about all these crazy-ass women who watch the show is that they hate to have the guys involved with ladies. Have you noticed that? We always have to kill the girls or have them leave town.
SE #1: That’s because the fans are in love with the Cartwrights, you idiot.
SE #2: That’s what I’m talking about. They love the guys, so they don’t want them to be with anybody else.
SE #3: How does that help us?
SE #2: Maybe the answer is to do something so they don’t like Roberts. Then, he can leave in peace.
SE #3: Getting him married was supposed to do that. We figured they’d think he was cheating on them and they’d get pissed off and want us to get rid of him.
SE #1: Kinda backfired, didn’t it?
SE #3: And the only one who was pissed off was Roberts because he was stuck here. This is ancient history, guys. We need something that will let us get him out the door with all his fans standing there waving bye-bye.
SE #1: You wanna kill him?
SE #2: And have them kill us? I don’t friggin’ think so.
SE #3: Come on, they’re not like Landon’s fans. At least these people aren’t nutty as fruitcakes.
SE #1: You haven’t read these letters, have you? I swear, if we screw this up, this crew is gonna storm the gates.
SE #2: Let’s see. What if Adam mouths off to Pa?
SE #3: Big deal. Little Joe yells all the time, and his fans think it’s adorable.
SE #2: He could say he wants to leave the Ponderosa to pursue his dreams.
SE #1: Little Joe did that, too. Went off to be a sheriff somewhere. The fans loved it, because he got beat up and saved the day. If we’d given him a big mushy moment with Pa at the end, they’d have elected us all president.
SE #2: What if Adam went back to college? He could become a professor or something.
SE #3: They wouldn’t be mad at him for that. Far from it. They’d demand a sequel. Bonanza: The University Years or some such crap.
SE #2: What do you wanna do? Give Adam a boyfriend?
SE #1: (spits out his coffee) Are you out of your freaking mind? Who do you think he is—Rock Hudson?
SE #2: Well then, you come up with something!
SE #3: Simmer down, you two. There’s gotta be something we can do. (flips through the letters) Listen to this: “Dear Adam.”
SE #1: It’s not even addressed to Roberts?
SE #3: “You are the most perfect man I have ever known.”
SE #2: She knows him?
SE #1: Does she know this is, like, a fictional character?
SE #3: “You are a paragon of virtue. Your fine mind and finer body inspire me.”
SE #1: “Inspiring”? Is that what they’re calling it now?
SE #3: “I fantasize about making passionate love with you, feeling your strong arms around me, and afterward, resting my head in your manly chest hair.”
SE #2: Are you making this up? (SE #3 hands him the letter. He reads, jaw dropping. He hands it back.) Incredible.
SE #3: “I will never marry until I meet a man as brilliant, as virile, and as perfect as you, my darling Adam. All my love forever, Your Snow Queen.”
SE #1: I need a drink.
SE #2: It’s ten-thirty in the morning.
SE #1: And? (reaches into his desk drawer and produces a bottle. The other SEs hold out their coffee cups. SE #1 pours. They all drink. Long silence.)
Then . . .
SE #2: (leaps to his feet) I’ve got it! (snatches up the letter and kisses it) Thank you, Miss Looney Tune!
* * * *
Scene: On the set. Interior: a dilapidated cabin. ADAM is tied to a chair. His shirt is on the floor. BAD GUY #1 is standing over him. BAD GUY #2 is stirring something in a pot at the stove.)
BAD GUY #1: We warned you, Cartwright!
ADAM: No! I won’t do it!
BAD GUY #2: (cackles) We told you, we want that money! Either you tell us where it is, or—
ADAM: No! I will never disgrace the Ponderosa! I will sacrifice everything to protect my family and all we’ve built!
BAD GUY #1: Last chance!
BG #2 approaches with the pot in his hand, blocking view of ADAM. ADAM screams.
* * * *
Scene: On the set. Interior: living room of Ponderosa. ADAM stands at left, by the front door. BEN, HOSS, and LITTLE JOE are at right.
BEN: Son, you don’t have to go. It’ll be all right. We’re with you in this.
ADAM: I can’t, Pa. I just can’t. But I don’t regret it. It was the price I had to pay.
HOSS: Adam, it ain’t as bad as all that.
LITTLE JOE: (places a hand on ADAM’s shoulder) Listen to me, Older Brother. This is how I live every day of my life. You get used to it.
ADAM: Sorry, Little Brother, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to—this.
BEN: You’re sure, Son?
ADAM: I’m not saying I regret my choice. It was what I had to do to save the Ponderosa. But now, I have to go somewhere new. Someplace where nobody knows what I was like . . . before.
HOSS: Dadburnit, Adam, I don’t get it. It’s just not that big a deal.
ADAM: (eyes blazing) Not that big a deal? Easy for you to say. You still have—you’re still—
LITTLE JOE: But I’m not! And I’m fine! Why do you want to look like a gorilla, anyway?
ADAM: It’s different for you! You’re just a kid! You don’t understand, any of you! (grabs his hat and runs out of the house, followed by BEN, HOSS, and LITTLE JOE)
LITTLE JOE: Wait! (ADAM tries to mount, but LITTLE JOE pulls at his shirt, and it rips open)
Close up: ADAM’s chest, as smooth and hairless as LITTLE JOE’s.
BEN: Son, I—I don’t know what it’s like to be the way you are now, but—
ADAM: (voice breaking) Just let me go, Pa. (looks back at his family, eyes glistening) Goodbye.
All watch as ADAM rides away, shirttails flapping.
DIRECTOR: Cut! Print!
Actors and crew mill around. Wranglers retrieve horses. In a corner, the STUDIO EXECUTIVES whisper.
SE #1: You really think this will do it?
SE #3: We gave them torture, nobility, honor, sacrifice, and emotional distress. They get to love how he left, but let’s face it—they wouldn’t want him like this. Not without that manly hairy chest.
SE #1: I still can’t believe Roberts agreed to wax.
SE #2: The price of freedom, baby.
* * * *
For reasons unknown, this final episode, tentatively entitled “The Waxing,” never aired. Pernell Roberts left Bonanza and went on to live a fine and successful life. To the best of our knowledge, he did so with a full complement of chest hair.