Bottle For A Headstone

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A Bottle for a Headstone [1]
Original Broadcast Date
December 6, 2004
Joe Frank
56 minutes
Preceded by: Duplicity
Followed by: Fire

I stand before you an innocent man.

Bottle for a Headstone is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Online. It was originally broadcast on December 6, 2004.


Joe defends himself in court from charges that he raped Miss Sinclair, recounts minute details of her home and estate. Joe claims he was working in his lab on a cure for a rare disease that affects beautiful young women. The first girl cured has a restraining order against him. Joe admits he took advantage of his role as a radio star to seduce young women. When he gets home from court, his girlfriend remonstrates with him about all the young women with whom he has affairs. He says his successful therapy with Dr Nierenberg has cured him.[1] She leaves him.

13:40: 'Later that night, alone in bed, I dreamt I was a diplomat attending a reception at a foreign embassy. But I stank so powerfully that it was as though a toilet had exploded wherever I stood. Finally, I was ushered into a small antechamber where a butler attempted to wipe away the urine and feces that covered my tuxedo with a clothes brush. But as he did this, he seemed to be erasing me as well. With every stroke of the brush, another part of my anatomy disappeared, and I realized he was destroying me. And I grabbed at the brush, and as we fought over it, my shoulder bumped up against a button, and the fireplace moved aside, revealing a hidden passageway. And I ran into it, down a long dark tunnel and up a flight of stairs, and then out into the great, open, starry night of a meadow filled with fragrant grass - when I saw, passing above me, a dirigible from which depended a large gondola. And in the gondola, I could see a man in a striped suit clutching at the bars of a cage in what was apparently a prison transport ship.'

15:00: Joe finds himself at the apartment of Veronica, a beautiful movie star (in porn films). She invites him in for a drink, and talk about her movies. He gives her an envelope of money. They make love. After, Joe dreams he's a bullfighter, gets impaled on an umbrella stand.[2] When he wakes they talk about his work as a registered nurse.

22:00: Joe consults famous psychologist Weinberg about Joe's obsession with death and women. Weinberg tells him to go to the morgue and make love to a corpse.

24:00: Joe tells us that Joe Frank is just a character he created who he pretends to be.

26:40: Father Malcolm was a priest. Bertram was the only Jewish altar boy. Father Malcolm kissed him, which rendered Bertram mute for 2 years, made him the best student at the yeshiva.

28:20: After seeing Triumph of the Will Bertram cultivated German friends and German culture. He joined a motorcycle gang. They terrorized a town in New Mexico, lived as bandits.

31:40: Bertram became a mime.[3]. A mysterious woman, named Veronica, dressed in black, knocks on his hotel room door, says he can help her, mentions a person he doesn't know. [4] She claims to work for a firm that makes a machine that creates time, describes its amazing properties. Trying to put her off, Bertram claims to have an appointment for breakfast with friends, though it's midnight. When she remonstrates, Bertram explains with an outlandish story.

38:30: The phone rings 5 times; neither of them pick up. When there's a knock at the door, she makes Bertram hide in the closet. The man who comes in seems to have the same experience Joe did with Veronica at 15:00. Bertram rigs a hangman's harness on himself in the closet to shock her when she opens the door.

41:30: Joe talks about the mysteries of time.

42:40: Bertram seduces Veronica. Afterwards, at 2 AM, he leaves, claiming that he teaches a dance class at 3 AM, then cleans subway cars at 5.

49:10: A few days later they (Bertram and Veronica?) take a ride on hay wagon in the country. Joe wonders if they're real or characters in a novel or serialized stories. A passing car veers off the road to miss their wagon, crashes. A priest falls out of it, dead, also a whiskey bottle. Bertram and Veronica bury him then perform an improvised service. They drink some of the whiskey, pour the rest on the grave. It's Father Malcolm. They write his name, birth date, and today's date, in chalk on the bottle, use it as a headstone.

52:20: 'I don't think I'm rationalizing when I say that adultery is merely what happens when the normal course of events in the biological life of a man are defined by the boundaries of marriage. If you didn't have marriage, there would be no adultery, but man's behavior would be the same. It's completely contextual.'

52:40: 'Pull my daisy' - David Amram[5]

Legacy Synopsis
  • Joe in the courtroom defending himself against her accusations, but he knows absurdly too much about her home and lifestyle. His alibi: treating young children with horrific diseases, but his witness cannot appear because of a restraining order. Flirting with a juror. I object!
  • Later, defending himself against his incensed girlfriend: seducing his lovely female listeners, a tearful, intimate goodbye with his a manly way.
  • Dreaming he's a diplomat at a reception. Smelling horrible, covered in urine and feces.
  • Intellectual conversations with a porn star.
  • His psychotherapist recommends necrophilia.
  • "Joe Frank is a character." A paradoxical loop: this is not my voice, I am only a mouthpiece for Joe Frank.
  • Father Malcom seduces Bertram, who has a revelation, then becomes mute and joins a motorcycle gang.
  • "You can best follow the instruction book on virtuoso piano playing by simply depressing the keys in the correct order."
  • Then Bertram becomes a mime and plays at Carnegie Hall. He's visited in the hotel by Veronica, who tells him of a scheme to manufacture artificial time. Then Bertram makes up excuses to try to end the encounter. Then: a knock at the door and it's her client--she's a hooker.
  • The nature of time. "Life is simply the punchline of a joke told backwards."
  • Then they killed Father Malcolm? (I lost track here, 40 to 50 minutes)



  1. Joe gets a recorded message from Dr Nierenberg in When I'm Calling You when he calls Tele-health of Los Angeles.
  2. Compare the fate of the bullfighter in Arena
  3. Bertram Fields was the name of the mime in Either/or
  4. This is similar to a segment of Islands: both women are dressed in black, claim a mutual acquaintance unknown to Joe, claim they can be an asset to the firm - though Bertram has no firm. This story is also used in The Box
  5. Originally a poem written by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassady in the exquisite corpse manner. David Amram set it to music. This rendition comes from Amram's 'No More Walls' album; the singer is Lynn Sheffield. Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie made a short film of the same name in 1959: The YouTube link
  6. Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Cassady each wrote alternate lines seeing only the line before. Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie made a short film based on it in 1959 - this rendition's singer is Lynn Sheffield.