THE ANNUAL MOZZA CHRISTMAS STORY based on the 1946 Frank Capra zultra classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life", (screenplay by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett)
A rumpled man exits a rusty, hubcap-less Ford Econoline van In front of a burnt-out, graffiti splattered, abandoned building at Highland and Melrose, takes a wobbly-stretch and a long, lusty swig from a bottle of Night Train.
"Is that, is that, is that David?" asks Nancy Silverton incredulously.
"Yes, that's David Rosoff," says a little man, "The years have not been kind."
This hunched-over Rosoff - eyes marinated in Popov, unkempt black and grey hair wildly spilling out from the bottom of his tattered Members Only baseball cap, rumpled black sport coat four sizes too big, mismatched shoes untied - stumbles on the trash strewn sidewalk and then, as if it was a most ordinary act, takes a piss right onto the fire hydrant on the southwest corner of Highland and Melrose. Of the two dozen people hanging out on the corner. not one pays this any attention.
"Damn, he's a mess," Nancy says standing off above it all. The man with her nods in agreement.
"Well, Nancy," says the little man, "Since you asked to have never been born, I thought it was my duty to show you what would have happened to your friends and co-workers if, indeed, you were never born."
"Who's those hookers over there?" asks Nancy, eyeing a brown and red-haired Asian woman with the pallor of braised Brussels sprouts, vacant eyes,. bitten-off fingernails, a seductive body set - wobbly - on 6-inch heels and a still-smoking, straight-shooter crack pipe sticking out from her cleavage. Next to her is a six-foot white girl, thinner than a haricot verte, nibbling with a blank stare on a flageolet bean and wearing tight, dirty once-white dress so small it barely covers her pate de foie gras "Ya know. in a those two remind me of tramp 'ho versions my old Osteria chef, Liz "Go Go" Hong." and my garde manger Anna.
"That is Liz "Go Go" Hong. That is Anna Nguyen."
"So sad," said Nancy. "What happened to them?"
"It's not what happened to her. It's what didn't happen to her. You. "
*(If you missed out on the news, Nancy Silverton, distraught over many things including a mysterious mass on her index finger, a pain on the side of her knee, a leaking cappuccino maker and, most distressingly, the unfathomable horror of repeatedly enduring the man she lives with not putting the cap back on the toothpaste, pleaded with Zeus and the others of his ilk *(Jesus, Muhammad Ali, Moses, Audrey Hepburn, Buddha, Roberto Clemente etc...) to have never been born. Now, a wannabe-angel, eager to do some good and earn his wings, has been sent down from the mountains to show Nancy what life in Los Angeles would be like if, indeed, she was never born.
It is shocking to see how the life of this one woman so dramatically changed the course of history in our city .As we catch up with Nancy and her angel-to-be, they are sitting atop the pavilion over pumps #4 and #5 at the Mobil gas station, a falcon's-eye view of the activities going on at the corner of Highland and Melrose, which, in the old "With Nancy" world, was the best corner in America, and now, without her existence, has become a cesspool of depravity, a lingering, wretched stop on the road to nowhere, a city's worth of squalid urban nightmares squished into one foreboding intersection. It has become what is now known the world over as "The Lost Corner".
Another disheveled man appears and grabs Nancy's attention. The guy is yelling at passing cars.
"What's that old, grey-haired guy saying to the cars?"
"Punch lines of bad jokes," said the wannabe angel. "That's Ralph Waxman."
"Tell me he's still not using that joke about the bird that cusses."
Nancy notices a 20-something woman with “wearing” a sandwich board that reads “Who wants to be my friend?”. She pesters every passerby.
“Wait,” Nancy says to the wanna be angel. “Isn’t that Kate Green? She has more friend than anybody.”
“She had more friends than anybody. But, since you never existed, Well, things turned out differently.”
Heading east on Melrose, pushing a shopping cart piled high with T-Shirts with slogans like "My Cousins went to San Bernadino and All I Got Was This Lousy Shirt" is an Asian woman with grey hair and a bright purple jump suit with the "Ross Dress For Less" tags still attached.
"Is that, is that Carly Kim?"
"Yes, that's Carly Kim. Times were hard for her without you spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at her store."
Kim wheels her cart - which, like most everything on The Lost Corner, is wobbly - past a weary and dazed young man slumped against the abandoned structure carving up a wood pallet with a butter knife. Within seconds, the pallet is transformed into a salumi board.
"The bum with the little knife. Is that Matt Michaelson?"
A windblown newspaper tumbles across Melrose and then flutters up above the gas pumps where Nancy and this wannabe angel observe the corner. She looks at the headlines in disbelief.
"Drug Kingpin Will Simons Arrested in Albuquerque"
"Will broke bad?" Nancy asks.
"Yeah. since there was never a Campanile and Mozza. he didn't get work after he left Valentino so he went home. and fell in with the tweekers."
Nancy stares again at another headline. "L.A. Murder Rate Tops Mogadishu's"
"I thought the homicide rate was going down."
"Well, in the rest of the country it did go down. But, in Los Angeles it soared. They say it's because all those gang members you hired at La Brea Bakery and Mozza went strong to their evil ways since you were never born."
"Ok. And this headline. "LA Ranked Worst in Nation for bread for 25th year in a Row. Worst in pizza, too."
"You know, without you. the bread scene. well, it never happened. Same thing with pizza."
Nancy reads another headline. "Man Sentenced to Community Service For Using Burrata On Grilled Cheese Sandwich."
"Nancy, are you starting to get it?"
Yes, I am. This town is whack without me."
A rare Maserati stretch limo pulls up, an exquisite woman exits. and begins handing money to the folks of The Lost Corner.
"is that who i think it is?".
"Yes that's Alisa Burket, the world-famous concert pianist. She helps these intouchables whenever she's in town."
"Oh, nothing. Look, she walked right by Matt Michaelson like she doesn't even know him."
"Nancy, how many times do I have to remind you? Without you, they don't know each other. Like so many couples here. Nick and Katie, AD and Celeste, on and on. Speaking of couples that would have never got together, look over there."
Walking out of the Yum Yum Donuts, with her Yum Yum Donuts apron on is Dahllia Narvaez, the sous pastry chef there. She's carrying a bagful of donuts. She gets near The Lost Corner and throws the bag toward the milling, maddening crowd. There's a scramble for the fallen donuts. The largest of them savagely grabs four donuts.
"Well," says Nancy, "Chris always did like donuts. At least some things didn't change."
As the scramble for the donuts gets more intense, a LAPD car appears. Two officers exit the cruiser.
"What a minute," says Nancy, "The cops. That's Rebecca and Derek. How did that happen?"
"With the increase in crime, the LAPD took to hiring anybody who applied."
But, Rebecca and Derek, they look at the corner and shrugged and get back in their vehicle. The Last Corner has no hope.
"Look at that missionary. The one with the sign."
Below is a young pretty woman holding a sign that reads, "Come Let The Mormons Save Your Lost Soul". It's Verona Masongsong.
"Poor thing," says Nancy.
"Yes, Without your guidance, Verona remained lost in the Mormon religion. Alas, she never drank, she never ate Chad's fat. Look. All that booty is gone."
Amidst all this is a piano that looks like it survived - barely - the Battle of Leningrad. A man who hasn't been anywhere near running water for a week plomps down on the rickety piano bench. It shatters. Still, he rises, and starts playing the piano. As messed up as that piano is. the song comes through and it fits the corner. "Everything Happens To Me."
"Taylor can still play the piano, at least," Nancy says.
Just then a taco truck pulls to a stop in a two-foot high swath of weeds near the Highland sidewalks. Only one person approaches the window to order. It's Ryan DeNicola. He looks penny-less.
"One taco. No filling"
"That will be a nickel," says the order taker, Kate “G” Berg,. “Oh, actually whatever you can afford. We don’t care much anymore about the money I just want to make enough to get high so I can go the Berlin club and , well, none of your goddamn business.”
"Can I pay you next week?"
“G” Berg turns to the taco chef, Joe Tagorda, who says nothing, but puts his head down and starts making a taco.
Forty minutes later, Ryan asks "Where's my taco?"
"We're in the weeds," says G Berg
"No shit, lady."
From above. Nancy and the wannabe angel look on.
"Say, Angel guy, whatever happened to my old boyfriend? Whatever happened to Michael Krikorian?"
"He died years ago."
The two look on at the scene below for several silent minutes. Finally Nancy turns to this trying-to-become-an-angel chap.
"So how well are you connected to Zeus and all those others?"
"Not well. Zeus doesn't even know my name. I told you I'm a rookie. Trying to earn my wings."
"I don't believe in fairy tales and all that rigamarolll, but I'm guessing in your line of work. the way to get some of those wings you keeping yapping about is to do something good for mankind. For the city.".
"Yes, that would get me my wings for sure."
"Well, then how about i take it back. The part where I say "I wish i was never born." You caught me at a bad moment. i want to have lived my life just the way I lived it. My successes, my knockdowns, all of it. I want to live my liife,"
"Great. Great. I'll put in a request right now."
Immediately, lightening strikes, the thunder roars. the rains pour down. the earth quakes, Lyanka opens a dance studio, Steve Mize's car alarm goes off, Eva knits a three-piece suit, more lightening flashes, Megan falls in love, Verona has a drink, Pilar gets a starring role, Paige's U-turn ticket is voided, Christine wins a cookie shoppe, Lola and her scooter careen off the road but miss a skyscraper, Ralph gets a gig opening for Diana Krall, Arielle sprints by oblivious to the chaos, Tiffany falls in love, Sean gets a part, Zeke senses a screenplay coming on, more thunder, Luis buys a Ferrari, Alfie falls in love, trees topple, Pasty gets a part, a befuddle Derek wakes up in a police car, Lance sells a poster on E-Bay, Dahlia announces she's "sick of donuts, fauxnuts and cronuts," Ricky the waiter falls on the wagon, Alex the manager leaps out of the wagon's way, flowers arrive from Newport, Singapore and Macao, a cocktail shaker rockets out of Jason's grip, the down pour up-shifts to Bangladesh rains. A flood is coming. The Ford van floats away. The grime is being washed off the Lost Corner. The sun breaks through.
The Next Morning:
Nancy Silverton's bed is laid out with her work attire. Marni, Marni Marni. Nancy exits the shower. From downstairs, she hears Thelonious Monk playing "Everything Happens to Me". It's sad, but very beautiful.
She grabs her Italian toothbrushes and reaches for the toothpaste.
"Michael! Michael!. You did it again!"
No reply, Monk is the only sound from below. Nancy looks at the toothpaste without the cap on, shrugs, and brushes her teeth.
Five minutes later, in a black Porsche Turbo S, Nancy Silverton is being driven to Mozza, to the mythical Lost Corner of Highland and Melrose, by Michael Krikorian. On Beverly Boulevard, they get the green light at Rossmore.
"Listen to this." He puts on a CD . It's Frank Sinatra singing "Nancy With the Laughing Face."
"If I don't see her each day I miss her. Gee, what a thriil it is to kiss her. No angel could ever replace, Nancy with the laughing face."
The Porsche is floored. The engine roars. The oleanders along Beverly flash by. Whoosh! It's a wonderful life.