Hollywood is chock full of stars who got their start in the biz from their famous parents: Jamie Lee Curtis, Drew Barrymore, Charlie Sheen, the Taco Bell chihuahua (illegitimate son of Mike Tyson and Flipper) just to name a few. But things don’t always go that well for celebrity offspring who aspire to be the toast of tinsel town. Consider this case of a wannabe director gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Orson Welles’ little-known adopted son Gilbert was determined, against all odds, to follow in his father’s footsteps. Every night he listened with great reverence to an audio tape of the famous War of the Worlds broadcast from his dad’s radio show, Mercury Theater on the Air. Even though his ill-fated show business career consisted of a one-month stint as a writer on Mystery Science Theater 3000 where he was fired for stealing lines from Home Boyz in Outer Space reruns followed by 10 years as a morning DJ and farm report announcer at a 5,000-watt Manhattan, Kan., radio station, he tenaciously clung to his dream of recreating that old Mercury Theater magic. His opportunity would come one fateful Saturday morning during what would normally be a routine test.
(Thirty seconds of the amplified sound of a gigantic one-ton cricket’s death/mating cry.)
“This is not a test. This is not a test. This is an official news bulletin from the Emergency Broadcast System. At 6:03 a.m., the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture reported an outbreak of mad cow disease at a Manhattan beef processing plant. USDA officials report that approximately 23,000 deranged, renegade cows which contracted the disease have escaped from the facility and are currently at large. These mutinous, murderous cows are believed to be armed and extremely dangerous and are moving along a line two miles E/NE of downtown Manhattan at approximately 0.002 miles per hour. USDA intelligence reports indicate these deadly, sociopathic cows may be in possession of automatic assault rifles, Abrams M1 tanks and several Cherokee helicopter gunships.
“Defense Secretary Hagel, in cooperation with state officials, has mobilized a massive, rapid-response anti-cow police action including contingents of U.S. Marines, Navy SEALS, meter maid trainees, and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. FBI investigators haven’t ruled out bioterrorism by cow supremacists, militant vegetarians, or angry New York Giants fans. Taoist extremist terrorist organization Al-cow-da has claimed responsibility, but officials believe this to be merely a bad pun. President Obama has taken decisive action by profusely apologizing, establishing a $500 trillion cow reparation fund by executive order, and attacking Micronesia.
“This just in. Infected cows have overrun a Whataburger on the outskirts of town and taken hostages. They are demanding grass, water, and safe passage to Iowa. Also five cases of Black and Mild little cigars. Reports are coming in that another small group of infected cows has attacked a Walgreen’s pharmacy. Five fatalities are confirmed in photo processing and three in cosmetics. The cows also ransacked all of the Xanax and bovine growth hormone. Oh, the humanity. These godless, reprobate cows will stop at nothing.
“More reports are coming in of a stampede at the mall. Please, please take cover at the nearest cow shelter immediately. If there is no cow shelter in your area, take shelter in the nearest bathtub on a lower floor and cover yourself with a beach blanket. If you are driving, get out of your car and lie flat in a ditch or ravine. Do not try to outrun them. If you are attacked by cows, do not moo or insult them about their weight. They hate that. Please stay tuned to the Emergency Broadcast System for further reports.”
As this momentous radio drama ends, one can only imagine the words of the ghost of Orson Welles reflecting on his son’s touching tribute: “Mildred, I TOLD you we should have sent him to the Teller Training Institute.”