Volstead Action Show Notes


SCENE: Barn of liquor

SCOZARRI: [indignant] We’re doing this corn liquor now?

HORACE: White lightning. Stump whiskey. White whiskey. Mountain dew. hootch. Mash… It’s moonshine, sir.

SCOZARRI: Why are you showing me this? This is garbage.

FOSCO: It ain’t garbage, boss. Just take a sip. It’s a quarter the cost of the other stuff, and it get people where they want to go in half the time.

SCOZARRI: I trusted you. I can’t run my business selling this. Nobody wants this.

FOSCO: You still trust me. Take a sip of this. Any of the easies in Chicago will buy this stuff with markup. Our pipeline is straight through the Appalachians. We buy at less than wholesale, and sell at retail.

SCOZARRI: I know how to run a business.

FOSCO: You do, SCOZARRI. But look. Ever since we’ve been threatened by the prohibition, we’ve run out of extra options. Now, all our dealings are done with people who still have production. THESE toothless hillbillies have

OTIS: I can hear everything you’re saying. I ain’t toothless

FOSCO: Let’s get him a taste of your shine, can we?

OTIS: Sure.

SFX: Glass clink. Unscrew cap. Short pour.

SCOZARRI: [sip, gasp] This?!

OTIS: Them in Chicago’s already buying the mash. They already got a taste for it. I shouldn’t be taking on new bosses, but for you, mister SCOZARRI, I can make a exception.

FOSCO: You don’t have to like it. We have enough in reserves for 20 lifetimes. We just take these barrels, and we decide to buy more, or not to.

OTIS: Your goons done sold 2 barrels in less than a day in Asheville.

SCOZARRI: My goons? Mine? FOSCO, are you already selling this?! Did I authorize this?

FOSCO: [defensive] I authorized this. We already have blind pigs asking for more. It sells. You don’t have to like it.

SCOZARRI: I have never had worse liquor in my life.

OTIS: That there’s the best there is. I take offense.

SCOZARRI: I don’t care if you DO take offense. I will not buy this stuff.

FOSCO: Boss. Let me-

OTIS: This is why I never do business with you Itali-

SFX: Gun picked up from wood

SCOZARRI: You don’t have to do business with anyone.

SFX: Machine guns fire

FOSCO: [horrified] Boss!

SCENE: At speakeasy ADDIE’s Lair

SFX: Door slot slides open

BOUNCER: There’s a sad cat

NEIL: [hushed] What makes a panther cry?

SFX: Door slot closes. Door opens.

ARLENE: Welcome back, NEIL. Who’s this handsome man?

NEIL: Good evening, ARLENE. This here is HOWARD. A new associate of ours.

ARLENE: (waitress “seductive”) Oh my. It is great to make your acquaintance, HOWARD. Any associate of NEIL’s is an acquaintance of mine. (casually) NEIL, Your table is open.

SFX: Muffled music. Door opens. Club sounds. Jazz. Talking over music. Drinks.

HOWARD: So, who owns this joint?

NEIL: Miss ADELAIDE. She’s a doll. [seeing her approach] ADDIE!

ADDIE: Welcome, boys. Can I interest you in some drinks this time?

HOWARD: She owns this easy? But, she’s a colored girl.

ADDIE: Yes I am. As colorful as god’s creation.

NEIL: No. Thanks on the offer. We’ll just go in the back. [hushed, scolding] HOWARD. This is a “Black and Tan” establishment. Hootch brings people of all types together, and ADDIE is wonderful enough to let us in her fine place. This is what we do, HOWARD. We are dealing with illicit products, and we’re creating unity, one beverage at a time. If the boss hears anything about color, you’ll be in a world of hurt [to bartender] Barkeep, would you mind getting me old fashioned?

SFX: Cocktail shaken and poured

NEIL: A true work of art. You are a master at your craft.

ARLENE: Boys. Why don’t you make yourselves comfortable? I’ll have one of the girls get you something? What’s your pleasure? Do you want a game? Some smokes?

NEIL: We’re on business tonight, ARLENE. Thank you anyhow.

ARLENE: I’ll have the cigar girl make her way around.

NEIL: HOWARD, SCOZARRI is out. We’re going to get rid of him. FOSCO is taking the top. And soon, it’ll be our turn.

HOWARD: We can’t take SCOZARRI, NEIL. There ain’t no way. He’s got protection.

NEIL: And we’re half of it! It’s called by FOSCO. He’s the man in charge, now. SCOZARRI is living in the old world. We have two more months before the sauce is totally illegal, and we gotta get it before we can’t any more.

HOWARD: SCOZARRI’s the boss. He’s a good man, NEIL.

NEIL: Look, the writing’s been on the walls since October. SCOZARRI is out, and everyone who retaliates is out too. I’m telling you this as a personal favor. You’re new to the crew, and I thought you deserved to know. You can be in on it, and not get caught in the action without a plan, or… you can watch from the sidelines, and see the world pass you by. Or worse.

HOWARD: I gots kids.

NEIL: Exactly! Think of the kids. They want their daddy to come home at night. GO home at night. It’s all going down next week, and I need to know you’re in.

HOWARD: I’m… I’m in. What do you need me to do?

NEIL: [getting attention] Let’s get us some cigars ‘round here, wouldja toots? [to HOWARD] So, here’s what you gotta do. [EDIT: fades out]

SCENE: In office

SCOZARRI: We need to get our distribution to increase along the east coast. We already got from here to Illinois, but we need to expand eastward.

FOSCO: But boss, we can barely keep up as it is. The other families are choking the producers, and our stores are already asking for more. If we stretch too thin, the other families could take what we do have.

SCOZARRI: I’m not looking for excuses, FOSCO. We have an opportunity we’ve waited for all this time, and finally we can be lords of our own destinies.

FOSCO: Yes, boss. In hindsight, I imagine killing the moonshiner in North Carolina wasn’t a very good idea.

SCOZARRI: That toothless racist? Not a hundred years of prohibition would force me to buy the swill from that man.

FOSCO: Perhaps we reconsider the swill idea, just until we establish ourselves on the east coast?

SCOZARRI: Horrible stuff.

FOSCO: Absolutely, boss! Horrible, awful stuff. But.., [enticing] we’re not the ones drinking it? Maybe buy a truck of that retched stuff, see how it sells, and then we decide? There’s only one more month before it’s too late. The other families will take a stranglehold on the suppliers in the hills before long.

SCOZARRI: [hesitant] You can arrange A truck?

FOSCO: A truck. Yes, boss. We’ll take it to ADDIE, and if she can’t peddle it, then we never talk of the moonshine, ever again.

SCENE: In car, driving

SFX: Old car driving

SCOZARRI: Capitalize on anyone else’s misfortune, FOSCO. Be generous, but make a buck doing it. If we keep this up, our children will never want for anything.

FOSCO: Yes, boss. NEIL. Pull over to that barn over there.

NEIL: Yes, boss.

SCOZARRI: That was a shorter drive than the last one.

FOSCO: If you can’t buy from the best, buy from the best that you can. This one happens to be more local. Here we are, SCOZARRI. They wanted to see you alone. We’ll be right out here. We already had your security check out the barn It’s just the one shiner.

SCOZARRI: [angry, skeptical] He wanted to see me alone?

FOSCO: I wanted you to see him alone. After the last time, we couldn’t have another bloodbath. Like I said, boss, we’re right here if you need us.

SFX: Door slams

FOSCO: HOWARD’s in there for sure?

NEIL: Yes, boss. He knows the full picture. You don’t need to worry about-

SFX: muffled, distant machine gun


BOTH: [relief] Deep exhale

SFX: Door opens and closes

HOWARD: [sullen] It’s done.

FOSCO: Go check.

NEIL: If HOWARD says it’s done, it’s done, boss.

FOSCO: I just want to make sure it’s finished. I need to know, before I take over the distribution.

NEIL: Yes, boss.

SFX: Car door opens and closes.


SFX: Car door opens and closes.

NEIL: [sullen] We’re good, boss.

SFX: Car engine starts. Driving.


ADDIE: Business has never been better.

NEIL: It helps to own the only joint, serving the only booze in town.

ADDIE: [sneakily] It does. What’ll it be tonight, boys?

NEIL: We’re just here to see how our newest addition to your lineup is.

ADDIE: The shine ain’t too bad. Apparently my clientele isn’t too particular since the prohibition started. [to another guest. “Customer service voice”] Commissioner. Welcome back. Your table is ready. The usual, tonight?

HOWARD: (hushed surprise)Is that the police commissioner?

ADDIE: It is. He’s harmless in here. This is the only place his wife won’t find ‘im. You’d be surprised by the crowd that hangs with the likes of him.

NEIL: I bet. [farewell] ADDIE… it’s always a pleasure.

ADDIE: You keep bringing that hootch around, and we’ll always have a place for you here, at Krazy ADDIE’s.

NEIL: I’ll have to keep that in mind. Come on, HOWARD.

SFX: Door opens and closes. Interior club fades.

HOWARD: I guess FOSCO’s gamble with the shine paid off.

NEIL: Not at all. There was no gamble. People would drink aftershave if it was their only source of the hard stuff. We just happened to snag the market while the getting was still able to be got. We just happened to be the oasis in the desert. Because we thought ahead, HOWARD.

SCENE: Office

FOSCO: NEIL. I have a… a different kind of mission in mind for the likes of you. Your reputation is flawless, and you already have a way with the local officials. But, that’s only been child’s play. SCOZARRI was focusing on the wrong things: he wanted to grow the business to as many states as possible. I have other ideas in mind.

NEIL: Sir?

FOSCO: Since the states have gone dry, so too has the capitol. We need to focus on not only quantity, but quality clientele.

NEIL: I’m not sure I’m following.

FOSCO: Congress, NEIL. Congress. They’re drier than the state of Arizona. Ever since Green Hat Cassiday got caught, there’s nobody supplying the congressmen.

NEIL: Green Hat Cassiday?

FOSCO: You didn’t know he got caught?

NEIL: No sir.

FOSCO: You think you’re up to it? What do you say, NEIL?

NEIL: I’d have to say… I… don’t have a suit, sir.

FOSCO: We’ll get you a few suits, mister NEIL, don’t you worry.

SCENE: Interrogation

AGENT: Tell us, HORACE… Who was involved in the shooting? I want names. All of them.

HORACE: My boss OTIS. He was the one running the operation, making the hootch. We was at the barn making the first deal with the Italian-

AGENT: What was the Italian’s name?

HORACE: It started with an S. Umm… SCOZARRI?

AGENT: SCOZARRI? SCOZARRI was in the barn, in this county?

HORACE: Yeah. He started the shooting. And he had two goons with him. Don’t know any of they names.

AGENT: This one?

SFX: photo

HORACE: Yeah. He was there alright. He was trying to buy the shine, but SCOZARRI wasn’t having none of that.

AGENT: That’s FOSCO. He was his right-hand man up until recent. Now he runs the show, since SCOZARRI got knocked off. Okay. Who else was there? What was the other goon’s name?

HORACE: You got me there. I don’t rightly know.

AGENT: What about all the rest of your guys?

HORACE: We buried them all. There wasn’t nothin’ that coulda been done.

AGENT: (skeptical) You’re telling me that every one of your friends at the barn got killed?

HORACE: Yes suh

AGENT: Who helped bury them? I can’t imagine you buried them all yourself.

HORACE: No. We done buried them at the church. Good Christian burial.

AGENT: We’re going to verify these statements, and if they pan out to be 100 percent true, we may be able to work out a deal. Maybe less chain gang for you.

SFX: metal chair slides against concrete floor

HORACE: But you said!

AGENT: (slyly) I know what I said. We have to verify your claims. And, we’ll for sure have more questions for you later. We can reduce your sentencing then. Sound good, mister…

SFX: paper flips



SFX: jazz, crowd

NEIL: [mid-conversation] And the man buying the gin from me was the very one who proposed the Volstead Act, Andrew Volstead himself!

CROWD: Laughter

HOWARD: Now you’re talking like you know a thing or two about laws and such.

NEIL: [thoughtfully] You know, HOWARD. I’m starting to FEEL like I know a thing or two about laws and such. I may just run for congress one of these days. I think I have a knack for these things. ADDIE! Would you mind having one of your girls bringing me another? I’m on a roll today!

ADDIE: Sure thing, NEIL.

HOWARD: What would your first act in congress be, NEIL?

NEIL: You know what? I would make sure we keep spirits illegal forever! Business ain’t never been so good! You wouldn’t believe it either: These law makers call me “mister.”

HOWARD: “Mister NEIL.”

ADDIE: Don’t you be thinking that ‘cause you’re called mister on Capitol Hill that I’m going to be calling you mister too.

NEIL: No ma’am. (wink) I like us just the way we are.

ARLENE: You wanted another, mister NEIL?

ADDIE: [playful] I see it’s catching on.

NEIL: Naw, ADDIE. I’ve always been mister NEIL to ARLENE here.

ADDIE: Fine, fine. Enjoy your night, gentlemen.

NEIL: [mischievous] We plan to. Thank you, ADDIE.

SCENE: ADDIE’s closed

ADDIE: Now, NEIL. Shouldn’t you be headed home, to see the wife?

NEIL: Don’t spoil the fun, Miss ADELAIDE. Just one round, won’t you, hun?

ARLENE: Yes, Miss ADDIE. Can’t we just play a round. We don’t play billiards no more.

ADDIE: A round. Rack ‘em up, NEIL. I’ll play next. I have to stick around while the band packs up anyhow.

NEIL: Are we putting money on this one round, or no?

ARLENE: You know I ain’t no good at billiards.

NEIL: Just a quarter, then?

ARLENE: Too rich for my blood.

NEIL: ARLENE, I saw that tip you got from that one table. You have funds to spare. A quarter.

ADDIE: A quarter for a round. Looks to me we have a game.

SFX: pool balls racked. Pool balls break.

ARLENE: Tell me, NEIL. Why don’t you ever stick around here? You don’t never stay ‘round here no more.

NEIL: I’m up in DC all the time. You already know this.

ARLENE: But why DC? You don’t want to be around Chicago? Or here?

NEIL: I go where I’m needed. (surprised) Oh. Good shot. I thought you’ve never played this before.

ARLENE: I never said I never played before. I ain’t no good at it is all.

NEIL: Could have fooled me. Chicago is way too hot right now. All the bigs are over there. Dillinger, Nelson, everybody who’s anyone is getting heat in Illinois. How’s business around here?

ADDIE: Business has never been better. All it took was making hootch illegal for me to be a hot commodity. Prices are higher, and so are margins. But, who wants to talk shop. I thought we were still here to relax.

NEIL: Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. How are the kids, miss ADDIE?

ADDIE: The kids? They’re just peachy keen. The little one’s walking now.

NEIL: Walking, you say? He was no bigger than my hand the last time I saw him.

ARLENE: He’s so big, NEIL.

ADDIE: Why don’t you come by my place tomorrow, and you can can see the little ones?

NEIL: Can’t. I have to go back up to DC in the morning. I’m just here for the night.

ADDIE: Then boy! Why ain’t you over at your place with the wife?

NEIL: She don’t know I’m in town. She’d have my hide if she knew I was here for just a night. It’s just best I stay away from the old place until I have a couple days.

ARLENE: (tisking)

NEIL: I don’t need your judgments, ladies. They know I’m why they can afford to have food right now.

ARLENE: I got a question for you… How do you get to the politicians, to sell to them?

NEIL: I pay off all the people in between. Green Hat Cassiday had already paved the way, so I was able to use the same people, and avoid the squealers.

SCENE Interrogation

AGENT: This man!

SFX: photo slaps on table

AGENT: What’s he doing now?

HORACE: I don’t know that man.

AGENT: FOSCO’s right-hand man. He was at the barn that one day.

HORACE: Yes. I remember now. I don’t know what he is doing.

AGENT: I think you know more than you’re letting on. Your wife said you have spoken to him.

HORACE: You have my wife, MARY JEAN?

AGENT: We’re taking good care of her. Tell me about this man. What do you know?

HORACE: (seething) Lord help me-

AGENT: You help you. Tell me about ‘im. Why was he paying you, HORACE?

HORACE: (reluctantly, seething) He’s supply’n hootch to the folks up in Washington.

AGENT: What folks?

HORACE: Them law makers. He’s sellin’ to the top.

AGENT: You’re telling me we got rid of Green Hat, only to have cleared the way for another nobody to take the supply to the top?

HORACE: Shore seems that way, mister lawman. Now, let go of my wife.

AGENT: What was her name again?


AGENT: MARY JEAN… Yes. (cocky) Never had the pleasure of meeting her. But, thank you ever so much for the information. Goodnight, HORACE.

SCENE: On Road

SFX: Car driving, interior

NEIL: HOWARD. It’s the coppers. Pull over. Let me get them their crate.

SFX: Car pulls over. Door opens. Trunk opens.

AGENT: (yelling from distance) Mister NEIL! Welcome to Virginia!

SFX: Footsteps approach

NEIL: Who might you be?

AGENT: Oh. Allow me to introduce myself, mister NEIL. I’m the agent who has been tracking you these last few months. And, I can’t imagine why you never bothered get me and my boys our share.

NEIL: If you haven’t gotten your share, AGENT, I apologize. Allow me to-

SFX: Gunshot. NEIL falls on ground.

NEIL: (gasps in pain from shot. Gasp from kick)

SFX: Kick in stomach. Gunshot

AGENT: Too late, NEIL. Too… late.

SFX: Crate of full jars.

AGENT: HOWIE. Shall we?

HOWARD: Yeah, boss. Where we goin’ next?

AGENT: What’s the name of that joint, again?


AGENT: That’s the one: ADDY’s.

SFX: Car drives away



STEPHEN: We interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcasting with a quick telegram.

OTHER: Well?! Get on with it!

STEPHEN: It reads. “Canadian border closed STOP. Deliveries of the sweetness being hauled underground STOP. Meet your local runner at the northernmost petrol station STOP.”

OTHER: What else does it say?

STEPHEN: It continues… “Fresh Genuine Canadian Maple Syrup STOP. One toonie for a mickey STOP. Get a second mickey for just a loonie more STOP.”

OTHER: By jove! They’re distributing Fresh Genuine Canadian Maple Syrup??? I think I need to get me some of that Fresh Genuine Canadian Maple Syrup! How does it say I should get it, again?

STEPHEN: It just says “Meet your local runner at the northernmost petrol station STOP.”

OTHER: Looks like we need to jump in the Model A! What are we waiting for?

STEPHEN: Eh! While you’re grabbing a poutine and a double double, get your Fresh Genuine Canadian Maple Syrup at your northernmost petrol station! And now… back to your regularly scheduled programming…

INTRO: As I’m certain you’ve figured out by now: you are listening to Mercury Theatre Podcast. If you’d like to learn how to support us, stay tuned to the end to find out how.

Slinging hootch during prohibition is a costly affair, and in a world of bosses, loyalty is hard to buy. Following some goons during this era, we get a closer look at this thrilling and dangerous timeline. So, you’re definitely not going to want to “turn that dial.”