Shortly after the brilliant film version of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross came out, I fell into an office game with some other reporters in the newsroom, in which we would compulsively quote Mamet’s lines at each other on appropriate occasions — like when one of us had done something remarkably dumb. My own favorite was the Ed Harris/Alan Arkin scene — “Are we speaking here or are we really talking about this?” — but the most often used line was, “What you are hired for, the reason you are here, is to help us. To — help — us. Not fuck — us — up. Does that seem clear now?” A close second was “You fucking child,” intoned with a stony stare and Al Pacino’s over-the-top delivery.
The line arrives at the end of one of the most withering monologues ever written, directed at the office manager (played by Kevin Spacey) who has just screwed up a real estate deal and let the very fat pigeon get away. It is not even remotely workplace safe: in a little over three minutes, it offers enough scatology to give Michael Medved material for three or four books denouncing Hollywood. But it’s the kind of scatology Shakespeare would have written if, like Mamet, he had worked at a real estate office full of lowlife salesmen trying to scam people into buying the equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge, and thanks to the magic of YouTube, I can share it with you here.
We were also very fond of Alec Baldwin’s speech near the start of the film, which isn’t in the play because director James Foley wanted Mamet to present the salesmen’s dilemma in a clear, tidy package. This generated the third most popular line: “Get them to SIGN on the LINE which is DOTTED!” Click here for Alec Baldwin’s finest seven minutes on film.
(A few years later, a member of the Chronic Mamet Quoters Support Group went on to The Record, where he interviewed Kevin Spacey for the release of the film American Beauty. When he told Spacey about our affliction, Spacey laughed and said, “What else can you do with great dialogue like that?” He then confided that whenever people recognized him on the street, nine times out of ten they would put their hands on their hips and say, “Will you go to lunch? Will . . . you . . . go . . . to . . . LUNCH?”)
The game sort of petered out after a while. I thought the Mametosis had been killed off entirely, but then, during a visit to a hardware store with one of those newsroom buddies, we found ourselves looking at a table lamp that had been taken apart for repair. The body of the lamp was intact, and it had a couple of ping-pong ball sized danglies on little chains. We both said, “Do you know what it takes to sell real estate?” Didn’t even have to stop and think.
Glengarry Glen Ross. The gift that keeps on giving.