Pride, Soul, And A Recipe
written (presumably) by Billy Crystal
(This piece was performed by Billy Crystal in Comic Relief V, an annual comedy concert on HBO benefiting the homeless. The show occurred soon after the Rodney King riots in Southern California. As Crystal as the African-American store-owner speaks, a mournful piano plays in the background. A beautiful monologue.)
Lester: This is my store. Pretty, ain't it? I sold chicken, barbecue chicken. Oh yeah, barbecue. And I'd roast it and I'd broast it, whatever the hell that is anyway. Barbecue: the real stuff, secret ingredients and everything. C'mon in, we're having a special on 'extremely well-done.' It was my mother's recipe, see? Nobody's knows except me and her...and she's been dead for ten years. I've been in this spot since 1967. Before that, we...we had a place in Watts, yeah. That one was burnt down too. I remember I was so angry that my own people had burnt up our store. I said, mom, let's not build it back up, mama, let's not build it back up! And she said, no son, be cool...it's gonna get better. (sighs) It's gonna get better. I knew there was gonna be trouble, as soon as I saw the videotape, y'know, first time. You think, y'know, you've been around, if they let them boys off, ooo-wee, then trouble. Then every day for a year, you see the tape, every day...wailing on Rodney. Two, three times a day. Hell, you'd see it when it wasn't even on, you'd keep seeing it, you'd keep thinking about it. It looked so bad for the cops who did it, you'd figure, well, that's it, this is an easy one, this is a no-brainer, that's it. But then...the word got out in the neighborhood that they were moving the trial to Simi Valley. Uh-oh. Then you find out, there ain't no black on the jury. Bigger uh-oh. Then the jury takes longer than five minutes to make a decision. WHOA uh-oh. The news comes down, not guilty, not guilty! Everything in me screamed: can't be true, can't be true, can't be true! I don't know what spread faster: the word or the fires. Blacks committing crimes on other blacks, burning, looting, families taking shit together, saying they had a right to it! Everybody's doing it! It's free, they said! Using Rodney King as an excuse to steal, greed! Families stealing together! Families stealing together! All on TV for the world to see. I cried so many tears I could have put all the fires out myself.
I was looking out that front window for thirty years in South Central. You see nice people. That taco joint over there was once an Italian place, then it was a kosher butcher, then it was a Korean stereo joint, but now...it's nothing. And I'm watching from my window. Nice people. Good morning, mister, how are ya? Good to see you, hey, how're ya doing? And then you look out and you see those people pulling that poor man out of the truck and beating him. And I see people shooting at each other in the street like it was the Old West! The fire started down the block...in the vegetable market, that the Korean people own, where I get my vegetables. Started coming fast like a rumor about your wife. Got here real fast and before you could say Daryl Gates, it was here and gone......like my future. So I run into the street, right?.....for help! And I've seen all these people carrying TVs and radios and clothes and furniture and I see people throwing rocks and bottles at the firemen. The only thing I don't see is the police. Y'see, you can't talk to people, when people get like that you can't tell them to turn the other cheek...because they had seen Rodney King, every time he turned the other cheek, they'd hit him! You can't tell people to be cool when Mike Tyson goes to jail and the Kennedy kid gets off! You can't tell people to be cool when the Korean woman shoots a little girl and gets a talking-to! You can't tell people that! Step on somebody's face for awhile, they're gonna bite your foot off. So it's been a lot of stuff! And then the President, he tells us, he says, 3that's not what you're mad at...what you's really mad at are those failed liberal programs of the 60's..." (suddenly rageful) WHAT THE FUCK PLANET DO YOU LIVE ON?! (laughter and applause from audience) Him and Reagan and everybody, all of them, who make that space between the haves and the have-nots so damn big you can't see each other no more. And then he says, well, we're all in it together. We're ALL in it together. If that's true, get down here with a broom, George, (applause) pick up a shovel...pick up a broom...pick up my life.
Y'know, crying because the world was watching. And they only see what they're told to see! Blacks lighting fires and the world goes, (clicks his tongue disapprovingly), look at them. And I get sad. Because I know, in my heart, how it should go down. Maybe I'm soft, y'know, maybe I've just been through too much. But in my heart, folks, I really believe that the four cops ain't all cops. The Korean woman ain't all Koreans. And those black kids that beat that man...ain't all blacks. (applause from the audience)
Whatta we do now? I dunno. Don't know. Whattta we do now? Insurance man was here the other day and he said, hey, Lester, you could rebuild, you could definitely rebuild but you ain't gonna get no fire insurance. Well, that's cool. What do you do? What would you do? I don't know. I know what my mother would do. Well, she'd build! She'd be out here with a hammer right now if she could. And she'd say to me: son, don't forget, you've got pride, you've got soul......and you've got a recipe.
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