Thinking Kong

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A Shaggy Primate Story by William Armstrong

King Kong ached all over. He looked down at his blistered hands, or were those his feet? In his semi-conscious state he couldn’t tell his hands from his feet. He would have rolled over and gone back to sleep, but there didn’t seem to be enough room for a good, sprawling roll. Consciousness crawled into his mind and stripped off the blanket of sleep.

He examined the space above him, looking for any object that might interfere with his sitting up. It was a habit that primates developed when they were orders of magnitude taller than the general population. Seeing no obstacles, Kong sat up. His whole body screamed its objections: "Your neck is stiff. Your muscles are burning. I think your backbone just bent the wrong direction. Why is the room spinning like that?"

Eventually the discomforts subsided into a quiet, throbbing background ache. Kong had time to reflect on his current situation.

King Kong vs. Godzilla. At least I got top billing. I wouldn’t have signed the contract without it. But Godzilla still gets all the good close-ups. Are the cameras trying to avoid showing my wrinkles? That’s crazy! I’ve had wrinkles all over my face since I was knee-high to an elephant. Those wrinkles show character, not age. What kind of character can you see in Godzilla’s ugly puss? He only gets the screen time because of the shock value he brings. Audiences these days flock to see hideous monsters that plague them with nightmares for months.

I’m getting too old for action movies. The director never eases up on the backbreaking stunts: "Wade through Tokyo Harbor. Wrestle with Godzy. Put the bus upright after Godzy tips it over." It’s killing me. ...and try getting a stunt double when you’re a one-of-a-kind property like me. This is definitely the last film I’m making.

He wondered if there was a body of water large enough and warm enough for a nice, relaxing bath. Next time, he should work that into the contract. What was he thinking? "Next time"? There’d be no "next time" for him. This was his last movie. But it irked him to think that his career would conclude without any really meaningful roles: Hamlet, Streetcar, Citizen Kane. He’d also wanted to do comedy, but this farce of an action picture was about the closest he’d ever come. No, he decided that King Kong vs. Godzilla would be his swan song.

Maybe after this movie finished shooting, he’d move to Costa Rica and spend his golden years on a modest plantation. He’d heard that with the small fortune he’d made in motion pictures, you could live like a king. Well, he was already a ‘king’, but on his plantation he could live like one. Try living well on residuals in Hollywood or Santa Monica, and you’ll soon find yourself in the Old Actors’ Home.

Kong rubbed his left foot, careful not to aggravate the callus that seemed to be forming there. He heard the rain beating on the roof above him. The cast and crew had been on break for more than an hour now. The director had called off filming during the downpour. Imagine a Japanese director not taking advantage of nature’s free special effects to add sensationalism to his movie. Kong was surprised, but thankful.

The portable hangar that served as his dressing room kept out the rain pretty effectively. "Dressing room" - what a joke! He never had any costumes, except for a modesty strap that hide his privates. The garment blended in with his own fur, rendering him anatomically incorrect. The wardrobe people said he should wear it to placate the censors, but Kong figured it was really designed to avoid feelings of inadequacy in every male who saw the film. It didn’t matter to him. There was no use advertising his virility.

He had long since given up hope of finding a helpmate, a soul mate, or any other kind of mate. He knew all too clearly that "size matters", and he was in a class by himself. Those shameless tabloids had tried to imply a romantic off-screen relationship with his first leading lady. Of course, that was absurd. She was pretty and had a pleasant enough personality, but there wasn’t any chemistry between them. And besides, she was too short. There was also a conditioned reaction. After weeks of filming, Kong couldn’t even look at a picture of Faye Wray without hearing her piercing scream echo through his head.

No, Kong had never found a ladylove. A few years ago his heart had dared to hope when he heard about Mighty Joe Young. He had breathlessly asked, "Is that Joe with an "E" or Jo as in Josephine? His disappointment at learning the truth only dropped him into a deep depression. But that was years ago. He had resigned himself to a celibate, lonely life (as lonely as one could be when you’re instantly recognized walking down any street).

His depression, coupled with his meteoric rise to fame, might have embroiled him in the whole drug scene but for one thing: the cost. Supporting a Kong-sized drug habit would consume about half of the gross national product. As for smoking, he gave that up early in the making of King Kong. They filmed his rampage through the native village a couple days after he quit smoking. Critics called it "a masterpiece of unbridled fury and carnage". They never realized that he wasn’t acting, just reacting to nicotine withdrawal.

Maybe he’d take advantage of this break in the shooting schedule to go over his lines - if you could call them "lines". As usual, they were a sketchy, inarticulate mess. His scripts always said things like: "Kong groans in pain" or "Kong beats chest and bellows threateningly." For once he wanted to have a line that wasn’t just a description in the stage directions. After all, even TV wrestlers spat belligerent rhetoric at each other when they promoted their next fight. Kong wondered if wrestling ought to be his next gig. King Kong vs. Gorgeous George. Out of the frying pan and into a figure-four leg lock! He ached too much to think about it.

He felt that the crew should do something about the soreness and pain in his gargantuan body. He figured they could put a couple of concrete-mixer trucks together and make a shiatsu massager to work out his stiff neck and shoulders. However, no one ever followed through on his ideas. The closest he’d ever come to a "Magic Fingers" bed was the Long Beach earthquake. But mechanical devices to rub down his tight muscles wouldn’t be very satisfying anyway. What he really longed for was the tender touch of the opposite sex.

Just as Kong was about to slip into a reverie of self-pity, someone knocked at the door (the human-sized door within the larger hangar door). Without waiting for a response, his agent, Murray Cohen, shuffled into the room and shook the rain from topcoat and fedora.

"Hey, King, baby, Murray’s been working for you. Take a look at your next project." Murray handed Kong a script (large print edition).

The Three Stooges Meet King Kong. They’d have to negotiate the billing, but this had some serious (comedic) potential. He might actually get some lines! All thoughts of retiring to Costa Rica and giving up show biz vanished like a cab on a rainy night. King Kong felt like a hot property again.

Copyright © 2002 William Armstrong

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