DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Some men and women think deep thoughts and come up with ideas and achievements that propel humankind forward. Alexis de Tocqueville penned two volumes of On Democracy in America. Marie Curie performed groundbreaking research on radioactivity, and went on to win Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry. Steve Jobs did all the Apple stuff.
I, on the other hand, have lately been pondering the Muppets, and what might happen if someone, anyone, decided to make a movie about them visiting City Hall during a day in Downtown. I came up with the idea because lately I have been seeing a billboard for the new Muppets Most Wanted while driving home each day. Yes, I come from the land of the easily influenced.
Would The Muppets Visit City Hall ever get green-lighted by a Hollywood studio? Probably not, but then again, stranger things have happened, like the City Council declaring Aug. 3, 2012, Elephant Awareness Day in Los Angeles (yes, this really happened). Here’s an outline of what would occur if Jim Henson’s furry creations came Downtown.
Scene 1: It’s a spring day in City Hall and the City Council is gathered around the horseshoe blah blah blahing about L.A.’s busted budget. All of a sudden, the doors to council chambers fling open and in stream the Muppets. Kermit the Frog marches up to the speaker’s podium and, because it’s the council and Kermit is a member of the public, the council members try to ignore him. They’re successful until Animal breaks his chains and attempts to eat Councilman Joe Buscaino. An irate Council President Herb Wesson stands up and yells, “What’s going on here? I’m the one who controls the puppets in this room!”
Kermit clears his throat and announces that the Muppets would like to open a restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles and wants the council’s aid. “Can anyone help?” he asks. Instead of an answer, within seconds he is handed a bevy of envelopes soliciting campaign donations for the March 2015 elections. Animal promptly eats these.
The Muppets try to lobby the council members individually and are mostly unsuccessful, though Tom LaBonge and Fozzie Bear tell each other jokes for 45 minutes; at the end, Fozzie doesn’t know LaBonge has been elected and LaBonge is unaware that Fozzie is a Muppet. Meanwhile, Miss Piggy walks away from José Huizar’s desk, turns to Kermit and asks, “Is he single?”
Scene 2: Having gotten nowhere in council, the Muppets visit Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. The first thing they notice is the 1,746 stuffed teddy bears the office has collected as part of an outreach campaign. They see DWP union leader Brian D’Arcy in a corner of the room and try to talk to him, only to realize that it’s actually a D’Arcy piñata and that every visitor to the office is invited to whack it.
Garcetti then enters the room, sees the Muppets, grins and thanks them for coming to talk about filming in the city and fighting runaway production. He pulls out an iPhone7 (yes, he got it before they actually made it) and in the span of three seconds Tweets, Facebooks, Facetweets, Instagrams, FourSquares, Myspaces and Friendsters the Muppets’ arrival. He then asks if they’d like to tour the Los Angeles River or be appointed to a city commission.
“We just want to open a restaurant in Downtown. Can you help?” Kermit asks.
Garcetti promises to conduct a nationwide search to find someone who can help. In the meantime, he suggests the Muppets apply for the necessary permits from the city.
Scene 3: The Muppets enter the Planning Department and ask the man at the front desk for the documents required to open a restaurant. They end up waiting seven years for someone to help them and all die of old age.
Scene 3A: Strike the above and replace with a montage with a lot of revolving doors as the Muppets enter and leave the departments of Planning, Building and Safety and other places. Quick images of money changing hands and rubber stamps hitting architectural blueprints. It is clear this is fiction because the Muppets are happy, the city staff says “Yes!” a lot and no one gets conflicting orders from separate departments.
Scene 4: The Muppets leave City Hall and walk to their new restaurant space in the Financial District. However, they are stopped at Fifth and Flower streets after Beaker (the scientist Muppet with the shock of orange hair) and Gonzo the Great (the blue one with the long curved nose and an affinity for explosions) step into the crosswalk one-sixteenth of a second after the signal changes from the “Walking Man” sign to a countdown clock giving them 29 seconds to make it across. Immediately a police officer informs them they have broken the law and will each get a $250 ticket.
The Muppets protest, asking why this would happen in Downtown L.A. when no city on Earth dispenses jaywalking tickets to people who step into the crosswalk when the countdown clock is still going. The cop refuses to budge.
The Muppets beg for mercy, saying they made a mistake and that $250 is a lot of money for an infraction they didn’t know about. The cop refuses to budge.
A group of area workers come to the Muppets’ defense, trying to persuade the officer that no cars were coming and asking why the police want to make themselves and the city look bad by ticketing innocent people, and couldn’t they just issue a warning instead? The cop refuses to budge.
Out of nowhere, Animal appears and eats the cop. The Muppets and the Downtown workers cheer.
Scene 5: The Muppets build out their restaurant space, and are interrupted every two minutes by a Downtowner who stops by to ask, “Will dogs be allowed on your patio?” Meanwhile, the Swedish Chef is in the kitchen testing out recipes in a manner best described as anarchy. Plates, chickens and strange phrases in an incomprehensible language fly across the room. Vegetables, old bits of cork and newspapers get picked off the floor and dumped into a bubbling stew pot. Subtitles reveal that the chef has no idea what he is doing. He also wants to know if Elephant Awareness Day will be repeated.
Scene 6: The restaurant opens, and after hearing that nine TV cameras and four national magazines will cover the debut of the eatery dubbed Another Hip Downtown Restaurant, all 15 members of the City Council show up for the ribbon cutting. They each grab golden scissors and cram into the picture around Kermit. Miss Piggy climbs onto Huizar’s lap for the photo. For no apparent reason Gonzo dives off the bar and swings from Councilman Curren Price’s beard. Muppet Sam the Eagle asks why there is only one woman on the council. No one has an answer.
Scene 7: It’s a week later, and The Muppets are ebullient as they huddle around a computer and a few newspapers looking at the reviews. “The Right Kind of Stockholm Syndrome!” blares one blog, which praises the Swedish Chef’s passionate yelling, which can be heard from the dining room, though the reviewer admits, “We only wish we knew what he was saying.” A newspaper headline reads, “How Swede It Is!” The accompanying story gushes over ingredients that are “unlike any we have ever tasted, and deliver an authentically rustic Scandinavian vibe.” It goes on to tout “the Bunker Hill-grown herbs and coffee imported all the way from the Arts District.”
Another Hip Downtown Restaurant becomes the hardest Downtown reservation since Bestia, and a popular place on date night. The Muppets make millions, and are hit up for more campaign donations.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2014