Oh, the complications of the modern dating scene and those pesky bisexuals!
“Taxi” was a much better sitcom than the average, and this episode is a good example of how it was much denser with a better and more varied selection of styles of humour and jokes. Even the corny bisexual / bicycle misunderstanding gets a bit more energy and spin than usual. Furthermore, this episode features no lecturing or defending the right to exist of homosexuals– a la Norman Lear sitcoms, like All in The Family or Maude. Kurt’s bisexuality is just accepted as a fact. Tony is not creeped out, disgusted, revulsed or angered by Kurt’s attraction to him. Nor is any anger directed at Kurt for dissembling his true nature. Tony is only upset for Elaine. It is his concern about breaking the news to Elaine that is the engine for the second half of the episode. In one instance, the emphasis on Tony’s dilemma is the necessary distraction so that the troll-like Louis doesn’t say anything homophobic or old-fashioned about Kurt. The only hint at entrenched attitudes is Alex’s moment of hushing Kurt at the gay bar when Kurt says he’s gay, then realising how ludicrous that is in a gay bar.
Indeed, the visit to the gay bar is unexpected. The first half of the gay bar scene just has it employed as just a slightly upmarket backdrop for Kurt and Alex’s conversation. An unreferenced quote from the programme’s producer James Burrows: "I insisted we use only gay extras and bit players in the 'Taxi' episode in the gay bar. Why? Because they look right and have the right behaviour. I told my cast to be as real as possible...We didn't have any 'wild' gays in it at all." The ferns dotted around the bar are a contemporary gay bar touch (vide the gang shuddering over the possibility of fern in the slightly later Cheers episode). The patrons look contemporarily gay too with their moustaches and polo shirts. That touch of realism does rather evaporate for the last couple of minutes in Alex’s ever-escalating dance scene. The episode’s big gay set-piece is enthusiastically received by the live audience, as men dancing together is always good for enthusiastic laughs – as numerous excursions in the “Police Academy” films proved.
This episode won an Emmy, though not for writing or acting, The writer of this episode, David Lloyd, would go on to further gay content in sitcoms. He script edited the Censor episode of “The Associates”, and even more importantly, was the creator of the first major American gay-themed sitcom “Brothers” which ran from 1984 - 89
"Elaine's Strange Triangle"
10 December 1980
Writer: David Lloyd
Judd Hirsch as Alex Reiger
Jeff Conaway as Bobby Wheeler
Danny DeVito as Louie De Palma
Marilu Henner as Elaine O'Connor-Nardo
Tony Danza as Tony Banta
Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim Ignatowski
Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas
John David Carson as Kirk Bradshaw
Michael Pritchard as Dancing Guy
Elaine is at a restaurant with the men, depressed after a break-up. Alex suggests that she should go out with someone. Elaine and T go to the bar to get drinks. Elaine is slumped and distracted. A smartly-dressed man in a suit sees them and approaches.
KURT: Excuse me. Hi. Are you two… together
TONY: Yeah, we ‘re together (as K is about to leave, suddenly thinks and grabs his arm) O-oh, hold on! Er, she and I? No,no,no. We’re just friends (pulls E) Er, I’m Tony Banta, and this is Elaine Nardo.
KURT: Pleased to meet you. (Shakes T’s hand) Kirk Bradshaw
TONY: Pleased to meet you – huh, Elaine?
ELAINE: (casually) Yeah right, hi (smiles at K, gives T sharp lowered look)
(T: deliberately upbeat and interested) So, er, kirk you come here often?
KURT: Well my office, is just around the corner
TONY: Yeah! What do you do?
KURT: I’m an investment analyst
TONY: Wow! An investment analyst (looks around for E, who has ignored all this, T sees she has gone back to table with drinks)
TONY: Ah, small world
KURT: Why? Are you an investment analyst?
TONY: Nah, a cab driver
(a beat while he takes this in)
TONY: Hey Kirk, you married?
KURT: No Tony, I’m not
TONY: Great! I got some people I want you to meet. C’mon over. (bringing him over) Hey guys! This is Kirk Bradshaw, an investment analyst from here in New York and he’s not married!
ALEX: Why do I feel like I’m watching a gameshow? Tell us what he’s won Tony? (introduces the rets of the guys) And of course you know Elaine
KURT: (silly/dryly) Oh yeah, we go way back
(Elaine makes “oh geeze” face)
The guys offer the seat closest to E. Both K and Elaine slightly amused at the obviousness of the set-up. All the others sat in arrow facing them)
B: So Kirk, let me tell you a little about Elaine. She’s a cab driver but she also works in an art gallery
KURT: Really? I’m kind of an art buff
(guys makes mock noise of interest to confirm how much K and Elaine have in common)
KURT: Strictly an amateur art buff of course
ALEX: What kind of stuff you like?
KURT: Just simple stuff, French Impressionist
(same noises as before and “French Impressionist!” “Oh lala!”, etc)
ALEX: (to guys) C’mon will ya. You’re embarrassing her
ELAINE: No, no, it’s okay
KURT: I own a couple of pen and ink drawings by Degas
B: Hey, I think Elaine would like to see those
ELAINE: (laughing) I’m really sorry about this
TONY: What about tomorrow night, Elaine?
(Elaine taken aback)
B: What about for dinner?
ELAINE: Oh, do you know what you’re putting this poor man through?
KURT: How about dinner tomorrow night, Elaine? I’d really like it
ELAINE: (laughing) I’m so embarrassed
KURT: I wish you wouldn’t be. I’d love to show you my drawings
(guys look away, make insinuating noises)
ELAINE: Well, er, might be fun. Why don’t you call me. I’ll give you my phone number
BOBBY: Here, here!
(BOBBY hurries to get out pen and napkin to write on. The guys all talk over each other saying E’s phone number. Kurt gets up)
KURT: Nice meeting you all. See you tomorrow night Elaine (leaves)
(Guys are excited for ELAINE, and cluster round her)
BOBBY: Great guy!
ELAINE: (really pleased) Yes! He’s very nice!
JIM: Seemed a little pushy to me
(At the garage – the guys notice that Elaine has been much happier , even singing, for the last ten days. The guys pride themselves on their match-making skills. All the guys except, LOUIE and Tony are out on calls. Kurt comes in)
LOUIE: Hey! Who are you?
KURT: Kirk Bradshaw. And who are you?
LOUIE: In here? God! (realising) Oh, oh, Kirk! Kirk Bradshaw – you’re the young fellow who’s dating our Miss Bradshaw
KURT: That’s right
LOUIE: How far d’ya get?
(KURT is taken aback)
LOUIE: C’mon, c’mon! A little guy talk here. D’you hit a home run? I’m not gonna tell anyobody?
KURT: I’m not going to tell you anything about my relationship with Elaine
LOUIE: Well, some friend you are!
(LOUIE goes off, Tony comes on)
KURT: What was that about?
TONY: Naw, he’s a jerk, hey, so how ya doing Kirk?
KURT: Pretty good
TONY: Pretty good! (mock punches him in stomach) You son of a gun, you! You and Elaine been seeing a lot of each other! Yeah! (mock punches him in stomach) You son of a gun, you!
KURT: That’s why I stopped by. I wanted to talk to her
TONY: You just missed her. She just went out
KURT: Oh. Just as well I guess (looks serious)
TONY: What’s the matter? You two got a problem?
KURT: Yeah, I’m afraid so. I’ve been meaning to talk to her about it ever since I met her. I just (shrugs) can’t seem to be able to.
TONY: Well sit down. Tell me about it
KURT: See. I’m in a tough spot. I really like Elaine
TONY: (mock punches him in stomach) You son of a gun, you!
KURT: Tony! The problem is I like somebody else too
TONY: (downcast) Oh. Somebody else. Well man, that’s a problem
TONY: It Is a problem, Tony. I feel bad about it. I honestly never meant to get involved with Elaine. Remember the night I came up to the two of you at the bar – I said, Are you two together?
TONY: Yeah, I told you we weren’t
KURT: (sighs) Well. (looks down) She wasn’t the one I was after, Tony.
TONY: (long pause as T looks at K processing this, then enquiring) Oh no?
KURT: (shakes head, then looks directly at T) No (smiles slightly)
(long pause as TONY looks at KURT processing this, then gives him long wary look, slightly pulling back, shaking head) Oh, no,no,no,no
END OF PART ONE
(TONY sat alone in garage, staring straight ahead finishing drink, with two empty cups before him. LOUIE comes in. can see TONY is upset. Sees TONY hasn’t confided to ALEX)
TONY: No way you can make me tell you this Louie . . .You ain’t got no problem like this one
(LOUIE tricks TONY into telling him by writing it down on sheet of paper, thinking they will be sharing problems)
LOUIS: (reading) The guy Elaine is going out with just made a pass at me!
(LOUIE turns to look at TONY in feigned shock for him. TONY sat down looks very small. LOUIE turns away and bites his knuckle, stifling his real response. TONY opens his piece of paper from LOUIE only to realise he has been tricked, but LOUIE runs inside his cage to safety as TONY tries to get at him in revenge)
(TONY sat at bar, slumped, despondent. BOBBY comes in and sees him)
BOBBY: Hey Tony. How’s it going?
TONY: Not great
(when TONY tries to pose a hypothetical question: what would BOBBY do if the person BOBBY was dating hit on TONY? But B thinks he really means Bobby’s girlfriend has been hitting on Tony, and BOBBY suddenly leaves to go question her. Elaine enters as BOBBY leaves)
ELAINE: (excited) Tony! Did Kirk stop by the garage after I left tonight?
TONY: (wary) Kirk? (badly acting) No, no Kirk! I didn’t see no Kirk! No idea!
ELAINE: Ohhh! Alex said he thought he saw him as he was driving off.
TONY: (sitting) I’m sure didn’t see any Kirk!
ELAINE: (can see he’s acting oddly) Are you okay?
TONY: (plaintively) I’m fine. I just have something on my mind
ELAINE: (sitting) Aww, you want to talk about it?
TONY: I haven’t decided yet.
ELAINE: Well, I’m going to be home if you want to call, okay?
TONY: (softly) Thanks, Elaine.
ELAINE: Well I got to go
(Elaine leaves. T stares at the table sad-faced and distracted. L comes from bar. Talks to T who doesn’t listen. When L sits down, T finally notices him)
LATKA: What’s the matter? You have The Blues?
(just looks around sadly)
LATKA: Well, why don’t you order some drinks and we can talk about it?
TONY: I can’t. I got no money. And anyway, I don’t think you’d understand my problem
LATKA: Yes I would
TONY: I don’t think so. You know anything about bisexuals?
LATKA: (gladly) Of course. They are very popular in my country
TONY: (amazed) They are?
LATKA: Oh yes. Almost everybody have them. And one of our favourite sports is racing them
(TONY starring in puzzlement)
LATKA: And when we are not using them we have special racks where we chain them up at night
TONY: Latka! I’m not talking about Bicycles! I’m talking about Bisexuals!
LATKA: (blithely) So am I. (gets up) Listen I hope you feel better, alright. Goodbye.
(leaves as ALEX enters bar)
TONY: Hey Alex. I really tried to work this out myself. (shaking head) But I got the worst problem in my entire life
(ALEX cuts him off, saying emphatically that he’s through solving other people’s problems)
TONY: Alex, I really did try to spare you from this. But, er, I’m not so sure that the guy Elaine’s going out with, is right for her.
ALEX: (surprised) That’s your problem? Tony, what’re you worried about? We picked a winner. (laughs) That’s your problem (!) Besides, who are we to decide who’s right or wrong for Elaine?
TONY: Yeah, that’s right. Except for one thing.
TONY: Well, except this one thing
ALEX: (sharply) What one thing?
TONY: He wants to date me
ALEX: (pause) Noooo
(T nods head)
ALEX: Noooo. You must have misinterpreted what he meant.
TONY: Well he said my simplicity was engaging and we’d be Wonderful together.
ALEX: (sinks head into hand, groaning) Oh no.
TONY: Well see now, the point is, Alex, this could go rough on Elaine. I mean, if she’s getting serious on him, she should know. So, should I tell her?
ALEX: No! I say he ought to tell her. Someone ought to talk to Kirk and set him straight. As it were.
TONY: Thanks, Alex, let me know how it turns out.
ALEX: (just as Tony starts to pull away Alex grabs him) No ,no, no, no, no! For once in my life I am not gonna let this thing get dumped in my lap! YOU tell him
TONY: (stares at Alex then accepts it) Alright. I know it’s my job. But, you think you can come along with me? I mean, you don’t have to say nothing. You just have to sit there and be a buddy. C’mon Alex, please, please, please?
ALEX: (grudging) Alright, alright. I don’t understand? Why can’t you do this by yourself?
TONY: I can’t be alone with him. I’m the one he spends tortured nights dreaming about
ALEX: He said that?
TONY: No, I’m just assuming
(Bar. Music playing. Only men in bar. Bar in centre of set. Alex comes in, sees Kurt sat at table at far end.
ALEX: Hello. (to men at bar) Hi
KURT: How you doing (shakes offered hand)
ALEX: Tony here yet?
KURT: No. he called. Said he’d be delayed
(as Alex looks around)
KURT: That gives us a chance to chat
ALEX: (sits) Yes, sure, okay. This is a gay bar, isn’t it?
KURT: Yeah, sure. This your first time here?
ALEX: (too emphatically) Oh yes, yes. (catching himself) I’m sorry, I didn’t mean by saying yes so quickly that it would seem terrible if I’d been here before…because actually it would not have been terrible if I’d been here before… yeah, I’d been meaning to (K amused at his discomposure) Just out of curiosity of course…No I don’t mean curiosity, what I mean
KURT: (kindly) Let’s not chat any more
ALEX: (agitated) I used to be such a good chatter, you know. Look, Kurt, I have a really terrible, difficult thing to talk you about, and I don’t even know how to start
KURT: Alex. I think I can guess what you’re trying to tell me.
ALEX: You can?
KURT: But I’ve already told Elaine that I’m bisexual
ALEX: Shh! (catching himself) Oh, oh! It’s okay here (looking around) I’m sorry
KURT: Anyway. We’re still friends and we had a fine talk. Oh, and by the way, I understand that Tony’s not interested and that’s okay too
ALEX: (enormously relieved and relaxing back) Oh wow. Can we have a couple of beers?. Wow. I thought this was gonna be difficult, but instead it’s a snap. Boy, am I a lucky guy.
(Very tall, large guy in blue bomber jacket who has been in background of scene comes over to the table)
Guy: Excuse me, would you like to dance?
ALEX: (Alex stares up at him then away with non-plussed look) Just for the sake of optimism (to Kurt) No, go ahead, I don’t mind
Guy: No, I meant you
ALEX: No, no, I’m just having a beer with a pal, thanks
Guy: C’mon. don’t be shy. (Takes Alex’s hand)
ALEX: No no I really can’t
(Man pulls Alex up. Alex holds firmly onto chair so that he is walking with it pushed to his bum. Man swings him around and Alex sits down again, retrieves his hand and makes “enough” gesture”.)
(Man grabs A’s hand and pulls him so that he lifts up from chair and is spun into man’s chest. The music has become louder. As Alex resists, at each instance the man turns it into a disco dancing move, including further spins, twists and even dipping Alex. In all of this the man is leading and Alex is the “female” partner”. The man parades A around dancing floor. There are now noticeably more men in the bar who are watching and also dancing in place. After one particularly vigorous move with Alex crouching and the man spin-kicking over him, Alex extricates himself. Alex has to criss-cross to get to the exit, since the man is dancing in front of him. Alex fakes him out and leaves. He immediately backs in again because there is a chain of men dancing coming into the bar.)
(All the men are dancing towards Alex, who now has his back against the bar. He backs up over the seats to find himself standing on the bar. All the men loudly cheering and waving their arms. Alex finds he enjoys the attention and makes a few tentative disco-pointing motions. More encouragement and he is dancing vigorously on the bar a la John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”.)
(The doleful Tony enters at this moment and stares open-mouthed. When another more flamboyant dancer jumps on the bar, Alex gets down and falls into the arms of the large man, who dips him so that Alex is looking up at Tony)
TONY: Alex! Elaine is having her heart broken and you’re having a great time here dancing (shakes his head and leaves)
END OF PART 2
(Garage. Tony and Alex sat at table. Tony evidently much happier, smiling, holding a dancing trophy)
TONY: I’ll never understand how you couldda let that happen. I don’t care what you say, I would never have danced with that guy
ALEX: (sarcastic) No. Not you, you little heart breaker. Give me my trophy (grabs trophy as T laughs)