Five Introducers at a Public Reading for Sid Vicious and Gary Oldman

Forrest Roth

A Very Good Evening to You, and You All, Too—

I would like to welcome Sid Vicious and Gary Oldman to your public reading, except this reading is not actually happening but is instead a poor representation of one in your mind, as well as in all of the other minds in attendance. Sid Vicious, as you all well know, was the famous bassist for the British punk band The Sex Pistols despite lingering questions to this day as to whether he could actually play the bass guitar, possibly or very likely drove the band to break up in the middle of a disastrous American tour, possibly or very likely killed his American lover Nancy Spungen at the Hotel Chelsea in New York City, most definitely died before seeing trial, and assuredly was the featured subject of the 1986 movie Sid and Nancy, which is, like, your famous sister’s most favorite movie. Sid Vicious was played by Gary Oldman in the film, an actor who is generally regarded as being a famous, talented, and anecdotal gentle man with a violent alcoholic past. Sid Vicious, a violent alcoholic himself, won no awards in his lifetime, but Gary Oldman has won many awards for his violent alcoholic acting style, including for playing a violent alcoholic Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy who may or may not have killed Nancy Spungen. Though neither of these men will be present or speaking to you directly in the conventional and contrived sense, I am very glad to have both here this evening all the same in your mind, as well as in all of the other minds in attendance. They will be of great help as you mourn the untimely, anticipated, but not anecdotal death of your famous sister in the city. But not yet. Let us give our next introducer a big welcome, shall we. Applause.

Dear Not-Happening Reader—

Once I wanted you beginning. You wanted you all to begin. And you all wanted to begin a story—a story about a person, like Sid Vicious or your famous sister, someone not at all close to me yet whom I detested and would learn to resent with a seething intensity, my emotions disguised under convention and contrivance and a general awe of my being placed before him or her. I would then be introducing a subject of the first and highest order—unlike the previous introducer—and become another storyteller with the mastery of a subject enough to put it in the mind’s eye and immediacy of my audience, which you all say we are fully due and accorded. An audience is our birthright, our natural expectation to the use of function, our very existence. Even the Puritans knew that. Now everybody forgets they must be an introducer until a Gary Oldman enters their life with a violent alcoholic Sid Vicious who becomes the fascination of a famous sister—in this case, yours. Remember: I am not responsible for anything which follows.

I am attempting an introduction because your famous sister, despite her apparent fame, needs introducers herself, and they are as well-deserved as the three lukewarm meals prepared by your civil servant parents in their upstate home when I visit, who will not even speak her name at the table for fear of ruining my appetite in your presence. As an introducer, however, my appetite cannot be tamed by the absence or presence of names but, like most American audiences, the novelty of them to our lives when they are introduced to us with which we play with with vicious intensity and aberrant self-denial. We know our lives would be empty without names, especially the famous ones. If I deny mine to you, you may slowly grow to hate me and my life as it opens in front of you—assuming it ever does—but as an introducer it is not my name you are concerned about but my subject’s instead, and my subject’s instead is the withholding of every judgment you place at my feet (if you could see them—we never care about a narrator’s feet, only his or her hands).

All I can say is, every once in a while, someone reminds the world that even Jesus ate at the tables of prostitutes.

To the Members of the Perpetually Seated Audience—

Instead, I think you will agree, is the best possible thing I can do for you. Instead is the greatest consideration America ever invented. Instead of being an introducer, we could be Gary Oldman, and often we are Gary Oldman, the product of a violent alcoholic household which was your instead, away from the calm upstate civil servant household, you and your famous sister watching movies with Gary Oldman in them—as well as with Molly Ringwald and Tom Hulce and all the famous actors of the 1980’s she knows—before she is discharged and judgment withheld about her long enough so she could walk though the door, out the building, and into the self-injurious city.

A city, any city, is filled with millions of plate-glass doors today. Many of them are automated, and thus are extremely difficult to deliberately walk through, but a majority are still of manual operation, requiring on occasion a friendly stranger’s gesture to hold it open and observe what is known as good etiquette. No one ever held a door open for Sid Vicious in real life, and there were no automatic doors at that particular time, if I am not mistaken. It was not an accident, then, that the real Sid Vicious and Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy walked through a plate-glass door, distracted by someone calling out what he thought was his name, but an act of revolt against civilized society’s true lack of etiquette, or, I should say, the pretense of etiquette which constitutes any building in any city. But I, obviously, am not Sid Vicious, nor am I Gary Oldman playing Sid Vicious. I am someone who holds and has held open plate-glass doors for a countless number of strangers who I never see again as they disappear into etiquette, into the vast, unknowable building of Gary Oldman’s America.

Your famous sister is somewhere in one of these buildings where someone—maybe or especially a gentle man—holds open a plate-glass door for her, carefully, firmly, but not anecdotally. This gentle man, all the same, follows her inside. He is entranced by the sour look she gives him because she has been thwarted by etiquette and is now inside the building without going through a plate-glass door like Sid Vicious, lost, not wanting to be there under these conditions. Since he knows he belongs in that building at least and knows it very well, he feels he has a certain claim to its purpose, its outlay, its overall aesthetic harmony of making someone not feel lost, and so asks her where she is going and could he be of any assistance in finding her destination. Instead of answering she ignores him completely, fully, but rudely, and she looks for a staircase, finds it, begins making a long ascent up eighteen flights despite the working elevators being the more preferable ascending option, which strikes him as odd because gentle men will take the elevator with gentle women. He wonders if she is not really a gentle woman but someone like Nancy Spungen instead, the kind of instead woman he has never known but perhaps had thought about after turning off Sid and Nancy halfway through because the movie disgusted him and he had not felt the deep appreciation of Gary Oldman that he does now after a long acting career of winning many awards for many notable roles which did not involve saving women—especially prostitutes and Puritan adulterers—until fairly recently.

You know, the one where he bounds up the stairs at the end of the movie to save the woman he loves, even after finding out she was selling herself to other men, before she threw herself off the building because she believed firmly, truly, but not effortlessly that no one—particularly whoever Gary Oldman was playing—loved her and that she would never be anything more than a prostitute in a building in any city.

You know, that one. Not the psychotic murderous DEA agent versus Italian pedophile assassin-for-hire one, the other one—though that movie works, too, because often you will never know for certain who should save you from adolescence.  

May I Ever Have Your Attention, Please—

The real Nancy Spungen was known to enter buildings in conventional ways because it was very unlikely a gentle man or gentle woman would hold open doors for her in public. Your famous sister already differs from Nancy Spungen in this respect. Your famous sister, unlike Nancy Spungen, has been to Mann’s Chinese Theater to put her hands into the famous concrete hand prints and would have gone to the Gehry Museum in Los Angeles if it actually existed outside of Gary Oldman’s mind. But like Nancy Spungen, your famous sister shows a preference for stairs, especially when they lead to the rooftop of a building where most people seldom go when they enter a building. Your famous sister goes where most people do not—that is why, of course, she is famous, other than starring in movies with the famous American actors of the 1980’s. Of course, some people become famous in America for falling into a coma, others for jumping off a tall building, but this is not the sort of fame your sister seeks, I know, because your sister means to rearrange the social order of American etiquette as Sid Vicious would have surely done had he not killed Nancy Spungen at the Hotel Chelsea—accidentally or otherwise—and then OD’d later, though perhaps he would have failed better to merely stumble off the roof of a tall building after taking a final swig of vodka, a theory your sister may be willing to consider since she has no idea what she is doing now in this building.

It has been said, or at least intonated, by many Nobel Prize-winning authors that a gentle man will not let a gentle woman fall to her death, much less deliberately walk through a plate-glass door. Because he never finished Sid and Nancy, this gentle man is unsure of that, however. Perhaps some people deserve to walk through a plate-glass door or throw themselves off a tall building, though no Nobel Prize-winning author has ever suggested this. To be sure, there are many people in America who deserve to walk up eighteen flights of stairs, even when the elevators are working, but the gentle man is not certain whether your sister is one of them. Even if she bears some resemblance to Nancy Spungen. He himself bears no resemblance to Sid Vicious or even Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious or even the real Gary Oldman who was raised in a violent alcoholic household. He is a gentle man following your famous sister up the stairs carefully, quietly, but not constructively, making sure that she does not see him but, at the same time, she is aware that someone else is indeed in the stairwell and may possibly, potentially, but not innocently follow her up to the roof where something anecdotal may happen but in all likelihood nothing will happen, which is what usually happens in most American buildings that you and I never seem to avoid, as well as what usually happens to Nobel Prize-winning authors who visit Niagara Falls or stay at the Hotel Chelsea.  

To Those Who Do Not Deserve to Die—

On this special occasion tonight, I am so humbled and very pleased to introduce you to the two people who have never thrown themselves off the rooftop of a building: one who belonged in the building in question, and one who did not in the conventional and contrived sense of belonging somewhere—namely, of having a building anticipate your famous sister’s presence. This is a strange thing to consider, but we must consider it all the same because I am introducing it to you; and without the introduction, you would have no idea what I am talking about, which is the only unacceptable development when speaking anecdotally. You and you all must know who is being dealt with here because how will you sit still otherwise and not want to walk through a plate-glass door without hurting yourself. You will sit still only when the one who makes the introduction is finished with the introduction and lets us watch two people who do not know the other throw themselves off a building because they could never walk through a plate-glass door in our reality of etiquette which does not belong to Sid Vicious or Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious. But you soon learn Sid Vicious does not introduce our reality because it is Gary Oldman who is a building we must walk through, even if, like the gentle man, we turn off Sid and Nancy halfway through because we are disgusted with the fictional counterparts of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen or the real-life counterparts we ourselves could become if we get the introduction of a gentle man who follows your famous sister to the roof of building he works at and feels impelled to save her only because he has to save himself in the process lest he follow her off the rooftop. At the very least, if he survives and she instead falls, it will make a good anecdote, he thinks. He starts wondering whether your sister is in her right mind and if she is anything like the real Nancy Spungen, someone who was not a gentle woman but perhaps did not deserve to die even if she deserved to climb eighteen flights of stairs while the elevators were still working; and to make absolutely sure of this fact, he talks your famous sister out of an imminent suicide pact, walks down eighteen flights of stairs, rents Sid and Nancy at her recommendation from the last remaining video store in the city, returns to his apartment with her, and decides to watch the second half of the movie, turning to your famous sister sitting next to him on the sofa with voluminous tears in her eyes during the final implied afterlife reunion and the end credits and saying, You know you didn’t really deserve to die.

Forrest Roth holds a Creative Writing Ph.D. from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and will begin teaching at Marshall University in the Fall of 2014. His work has appeared in NOON, Denver Quarterly, Juked, Sleepingfish, Caketrain, Upstairs at Duroc, and other journals. He is also the author of a novella, Line and Pause (BlazeVOX Books), and a prose poem chapbook, The Sullen Pages (Little Red Leaves). "Five Introducers" is taken from a manuscript in progress, with excerpts forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review and alice blue review. Links can be found at