Keeping a Straight Face—a romantic comedy

Reg’d © Library of Congress
A writer sleeps with a journalist who destroys him by publishing a disastrous account of what he's like in bed, and he can save his career only by marrying her.

    In the Park Plaza bar Rick tries to pick up Evvy who, carefully assembling her sentences, explains that she's brain-damaged.  Awed, abashed, tender, he watches her depart and is joined by his agent and his editor: Rick has been paid a million-dollar advance for a novel and they're here for a press-party book launch.

    Upstairs Evvy amuses her friends with the re-tard routine this jerk at the bar actually bought as Rick comes up behind her and hears.  They exchange sarcasms.  She's a journalist covering the author of this book The Understated Stud—does he know Rick Coyne?  Sort of, he says, and as his editor makes a speech Rick puts her on, feeding her material as she fills her notebook; when he's called to the mike she realizes.

    He charms the audience but she cuts in with rapid-fire politically-correct questions and they exchange sarcasms, then insults, on camera.  He implicates her newspaper; men, he says, are coming back.  She is fired.  He appears on Letterman.

    She researches him—he's been in Europe for ten years, owes a hundred thousand in child support and faces three months in jail if he enters Connecticut—and tries to sell an article on him to Vanity Fair but the editor wants her to sleep with the understated stud and write about that. Life is hard, honey—find out if he is too.  Evvy is mortified, but her friends talk her into it, and she approaches Rick for an "interview."

    He isn't sure: he's already spent the million, he's dealing to see his estranged son, he needs book sales to pay support and his agent says no way, she'll murder you.  That night, in bed with a guest, Rick takes Evvy’s call and declines the interview as his guest screams her way over the top.

    They go out to celebrate permission to see his son and are intruded on by Evvy, who gets rid of the rival by telling her Rick has HIV.  He goes angrily home alone to find the bitter mother of his son , who offers herself to him; he alienates her further by refusing.

    At dinner with a society hostess Barbara he meets literary celebrities, including Evvy’s editor.  In bed with the hostess he is interrupted repeatedly by Evvy's voice on the answer-phone, and can't perform.  His first meeting with his twelve-year-old son goes horribly, and when Evvy shows up, provoking Rick's outrage, the kid is entirely put off.

    But at their next meeting they discover mutual tastes—dandyism (posing in mirrors as they're fitted for suits) and topless women: he sneaks Michael into a strip bar, where he is served papers by the dancer Evvy told he had HIV.

    To get Evvy off his back he agrees to the interview.  She tries to seduce him, and sarcasm does turn to flirtation, but he declines.  His son is staying with him and, oppressed by her deadline, Evvy promises to show him topless women to get another chance at Rick.  Her friends in the ballet dazzle the boy with a display, the day is a success and Rick and Evvy wind up in bed.

    But though they want it to work mood turns angular.  He takes the blame and leaves.  SNOW WHITE MEETS DROOPY! shouts the next of VF: the Understated Stud isn’t a stud at all.   The society hostess and his son’s mother concur, the tabloids scream he has AIDS, sales on his book dry up, the film option is dropped and the publishers withdraw their offer for his next novel.  Unable to make support payments he will lose access to his son. 

    Only one thing, says his agent, can save him: marry her.  He recoils, horrified, but his son agrees.  All he has to do is get a commitment, announce, nail her and bail out. 

    Now it's his turn to call her, stalk her, beg her and be repulsed.  His editor gets her editor to get Evvy to dine with him and, surrounded by reporters, her taperecorder going, he proposes and is laughed at.  But as he walks her home she says yes!  Joy, kiss—but he can't come up:  She's an old-fashioned girl.

    They go on Letterman together and fight; she almost calls it off but is offered a book deal as big as his and the world prepares for the grudge match of all time.  But his son holds him to his promise.

    On the big day he weeps in his agent’s arms.  Her bridesmaids prime her with downers.  The reception is in her Connecticut garden where he is apt to be arrested.  All pair off—his agent and her friend, his editor and hers, his son and the stripper for strip poker—except the bride and groom.  She wounds him intimately with a champagne cork, swings a wet bar towel at him and whacks the society hostess; he holds her head underwater, after which she must smile for the media.

    While the others are happily in bed the newlyweds approach the act in sinister silence.  Tense, desperate, they break through into passion—but she can't.  He accepts it; the joke's over, they've got their book contracts.  But no, she can't—with anyone!  She's—a virgin.  Her career—she just never had time!  But he musn't tell anyone—this is her worst secret!  Pause: what'll you gimme? he says.  She glances at us—putting him on and he’s buying it!  Saxophone.

Reg’d © Library of Congress

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