The Madam’s Hussar
from The Assembly-Line Prince

a novel by Herbert Kuhner

I was in the doldrums when Herby’s call came. He had a film Job for me. I was to do the limericks for Hans Fantel’s new sexcapade The Madam’s Hussar. I would also double as English speech coach. Herby was the hussar’s adjunct. The cast was international (and mostly unknown, except for the French has-been who would be paid two thousand dollars to present herself in the nude). The film would be dubbed into several languages, but. the actors, none of them English-speaking, would mouth their lines In English. They were speculating on striking it rich with the English version.

The hussar was a Giovanni type with comical overtones (His pants fell down during duels. But although pantless, he was always the victor.) The adjunct was a Leporello. He barged in on the ladies while they were bathing. But his activity was limited to eye-rolling and lip wetting. It was the hussar who got all the tail. And the adjunct – the pratfall.

The film opened with the presentation of credits and caricatures of the main actors printed and painted on wriggling areas of anatomy. The madam wasn’t really a madam at all but the hostess of an inn on the outskirts of Vienna. The hussar was her lover who sometimes strayed. The adjunct was the would-be love of the hostess‘ chambermaid. The setting was 1809, the time of Napoleon’s second siege of Vienna. The emperor was convinced that the golden heart was nothing but a stone and the waltz, the worst abomination that had come upon the musical scene. Being old-fashioned, he preferred the gracious minuet. In order to eliminate the threat of the waltz, he had decided to sack and burn the city. On his way there, he spent the night in the hostess‘ inn. He erroneously thought the inn, a bordello, and the hostess, a madam. To his dismay, he fell madly, head aver heels in love with her. But being virtuous and true to the hussar, she bravely resisted his advances. She used the excuse that she was off limits. Naturally being a gentleman, Napoleon did not force her to bestow her favors on him.

Meanwhile, the adjunct, hiding nude in a closet (he had tried to-catch the chambermaid unawares) overheard a conversation between Napoleon and Marshal Lannes, in which the destruction of Vienna was discussed.

As soon as the coast was clear, the adjunct went traipsing down the hall to tell the hussar who was in bed with one of the waitresses. (Laugh!) The next scene showed the hussar in bed with the hostess who was moaning as the hussar tried to convey the information. At the vital moment, he managed to make his point. The hostess, being patriotic, snapped out of it to become distressed and thoughtful. How to save Vienna! The hussar hit upon a plan. The hostess, being virtuous, at first refused. But Vienna was at stake. Finally she gave in to save the city she loved.

Napoleon had a reputation as a connoisseur of backsides. The hostess would round up the most shapely Viennese virgins. (Virginity always plays an important part in sex films.) She would bring them to the inn. After they had been presented to the emperor, they would turn around, bend over and hoist their skirts. Their drawers, conveniently having been disposed of earlier. After this exhibition, the emperor would naturally have other things on his mind than-the sacking of Vienna. That’s where the non-bordello inn came in. The hostess, her waitresses and the virgins would personally attend to the wishes of Napoleon, his general staff and his officers. The recruits would be left on their own. Scenes of them chasing nude maids through the town. Thus by sacrificing the hostess., the hussar had saved the day – and Vienna. Of course the film ended happily. After Napoleon had cleared out, throwing and blowing kisses, there was a mellow love scene between the hostess and the hussar in which he promised to mend his philandering ways. And the adjunct finally made it with the chambermaid. Fade out. Up went the skirts again; on the backsides were letters spelling out


So there was the masterpiece for which I was to lend my talents and do my part.

Herby and I went to meet Schmiltz. On the way to his office Herby told me-about him. Like the fictitious hussar, he had also been the savior of Vienna. When the Russians had surrounded the city in the last stages of the war, he had been a colonel in the Wehrmacht. In order to save Vienna from total destruction he had run over to the Russians with the defense plans.
Of course I was excited at the prospect of meeting hero. A true-to-life hussar. And I would be involved in a sex film. There would be girls. And I would be a big deal. Hot dog!
In a dingy office we were greeted by a little guy with froggy eyes and a scratchy voice. Where’s the hero, I wondered. He turned out to be he.
Schmiltz explained that they were making the film on a shoestring budget. I would have to do the job without a contract. But the expenses would be taken care of, and I would get an extra little something. Whatever he could give me. I wasn’t in a position to bargain. Struggling writers can’t be choosers.
The studio shots would be filmed in Budapest and the location shots in Belaton. Schmiltz handed me the German and English scripts. The English one looked like it had been translated by an Austrian schoolmaster who thought he knew the language after spending a vacation in London. Schmiltz told me that there would be more Madam films, and that if my work were satisfactory, I could do the translations of the sequels.
That night, with Herby at the wheel, we drove to Budapest. It was a cool starry night. A night for dreams and fantasy. Beautiful Hungarian girls! Herby’s eyes were gleaming. Mine lit up too.
During the drive Herby gave me a trailer of what was to come. I got the first installments of his story. I would soon see him In Action. In Budapest he would be in his element.
Herby was a pickpocket in reverse. Instead of removing from a pocket, he added to it. He was a sort of sexual kleptomaniac. A thief in the night and of the night. He never stuck around after a job. He had to hop in his car and hunt new stuff. His overall average was one out of five. And held been at it for years. He had a method, a routine, which he seldom fell out of. Every move was planned. And if something gummed up the works, he’d switch to another play. The gist of it was to make them feel that they were nothing, and he – everything. It was all timetabled, scheduled and mapped. It was either a quick conquest or a speedy retreat. What couldn’t be taken by blitzkrieg wasn’t worth a siege. Once a victim had succumbed, it was on the next. He‘ was a con artist. A mâitre de con. Master of the con game. He conned them into coming across. He put one over on them before they know where they were at.

In order to pass the time of night, I suggested that we compile the number of woman who had complied. This was difficult since Herby never kept track. There had been approximately 200 a year and he had started fifteen years ago. We came to a round 3,000. Enough mates to fill a large theater or a small stadium. There had been a dozen deflorations and a dozen doses of clap (one of the hazards of Casanova-hood). The next step was the number of offspring. Herby knew of none. He seldom hung around long enough to find out what the repercussions were. But according to Herby’s Law of Averages, there had to be about a hundred Herbies or Albertas walking or waddling about. He figured he’d hit the jackpot once in thirty throws. He never worried about precautions. It was their problem, not his.
While we were engaged in these mathematical procedures we approached Hegyeshalom, the Hungarian border town. The Austrian customs let us through with a salute, a joke and a wave. Then the lifting of the gate on the Hungarian side.

We were met by a customs officer who looked like the leader of a Latin American orchestra. But unsmiling, unfriendly and unshaven. Greasy black hair and effeminate. The kind of fellow who shows up at drag dances with earrings and a turban topped with fruit.
We must-have looked like suspicious characters, because he had two young aides open and go through our bags. The search was thorough, including pockets and wallets.
One of the aides found a photo of Herby, handsome in a SS-uniform. The bandleader smiled. White teeth were revealed. It would be the clink for the Nazi and a trial as a war criminal. Herby exasperated, but with no loss of composure, asked for, his passport. The band leader held it tightly and refused to hand it over. However he did open it. Herby reached over and tapped his birth date with a finger. He would have been the youngest SS man in the war. The photo was merely a publicity shot. He had played the role in an American TV series.
The bandleader reluctantly had visas issued to us. We left after Herby had signed autographs for the aides. Luckily they hadn’t found the two thousand forint in Herby’s bag. That would have meant four years for the SS-man. As we drove away, I mentioned that to him. He informed me that he didn’t have it. He had slipped it into my bag since I had a reliable look.
I had started to doze off when Herby suddenly put the brakes on. There were two cats an the road. One was dead. The other was keeping watch. Herby explained that the live one would stay there until it had been run over. In order to prevent that, Herby got out of the car, picked the dead one up by the tail and flung it off the road.

We arrived at the Hotel Gellert at dawn. After a nap and a late breakfast, Fantel received us in his hotel suite. Thin, bald, potbellied and staccato speech. He had a reputation as a tyrant. And very jealous. He didn’t like anyone messing with a starlet he had his eye on. The word was circulating that he was impotent. (The best qualification for a director of sex films.)
The next day, it was work and verses. Herby true to form, started with a bang, one of the Hungarian extras. He smuggled her into the hotel. I had to smuggle her out. Apparently, I was Leporello’s Leporello.
However, after a few days, I tried to drop the Leporello role. There was Annette. I, true to form – shy. It took a bit of courage.
Annette. slender, green eyes, flaming hair, freckles, a mauve Empire dress. Ah yes, Annette. Springy movements. Gathering her skirts up and running away from me. And toward me. Squealing prettily. The swish and rustle of lace.

Holding hands. Kisses. All she knew were a few words of English. That meant sign language. Quick graceful gestures from her.
Lola invited us home. Spicy goulash with peppers. And for dessert: apples. Herby bit into his. A worm. Mine perfect. „Here,“ he held the bitten one out, offering to trade. „Not on your life,“ I said. Why should I give him my rosy apple for his wormy one. I had bitten into enough rotten apples in my life.
We continued working: I with the limericks and coaching, and Herby as the adjunct. He stalked the set looking for new prey. In costume and out of costume, very Hollywood in dark glasses and white Levis. Lola had been a quick conquest and was no longer interesting. He couldn’t resist trying his luck with Annette. But his system of jiffy seduction didn’t work with her. Besides, I was there to see that there was no nonsense. He settled for a new extra, Olga.
Our cavorting ended when, Schmiltz arrived from Vienna. He was Simon Ligree, and we, his slaves, especially the more lowly among us.
My limerick writing wasn’t coming along fast enough to suit him. Nor were the limericks smutty enough for his taste. Not only that! He fancied himself a songwriter in addition to his many other non-talents. He was a do-it-yourself man and an all-around hand. A jerk-of-all trades. He took it upon himself to revise my work Not that I gave a damn. They weren’t poems after all. But he hashed them to a state of idiocy. And the grammar: beyond belief. I began to suspect that the English script was either his work or had undergone his revisions. As for the double-entendre, he had a system all of his own. I tried to explain that the word tail had a totally different meaning in English than in German. In English: one end feminine – and in German, the other: masculine.
What was to be my undoing? Nothing other than my integrity. I should have let him do it his way with no comments.

Then Deli, the composer, appeared on the set. When he took a gander at the Schmiltz version, he flew to the roof. When I showed him my original limericks, he quieted down. Schmiltz was an idiot, an imbecile. Mine were okay. All they needed was a bit of brushing up. We did the job together. Deli, patting me on the back and praising me. He’d see that I got fair deal. He wouldn’t let Schmiltz give me the business. What’s more, he’d have me work for him after the film was completed. He had lyrics to translate.
Naturally when Schmiltz saw what we had done to his verses, be busted a gut. But he had no alternative than to let us do it our way.

While Deli and I were doing the rest of the verses, there was a change in location. We moved to Balaton for the outdoor sequences. The inn-bordello, a facade with no back, stood ready to be filmed.
We stayed in a brand new hotel that looked modern at first glance. And in a sense it really was. A second glance revealed its true makeshift character. There was a pool with a dripping fountain in. the lobby, almost impossible to step around without stepping into. Modernistic lamps that were badly balanced and tumbled at a touch. Windows that tilted inwards and were as dangerous as guillotine. A green plastic toilet seat that looked like a Buck Rogers spaceship. Plastic doorknobs, plastic drains, plastic faucets. It was truly Plasticland. Herby had already become sated with his new extra. On the first day he went swimming in Lake Balaton. In a secluded spot near the rushes, he found a bikinied girl floating on an air mattress. He swam underwater to her proximity, popped out of the water, whipped the hair out of his eyes and asked: „Do you always float alone.?“

„Get back under!“ she ordered, pushing his head down. Her husband was lying on the water’s bank, equipped with field glasses. He was terribly possessive. Then she paddled to where her husband could no longer see. There in the rushes it happened.
I spent the afternoon with Annette. We went to a so-called cultural park. It consisted of a few carny-type shooting stands.. The son of Laszlo, the Hungarian crew boss, tagged along. A squirt with twirpy ears. He looked sixteen but was three years older. He was a pest, always trying to get between Annette and me. But finally we did manage to dodge him.
In the morning we wanted to go off alone. But Pal, a lieutenant in Napoleon’s army, convinced us to join him for dinner in a marvelous restaurant. It was just a short walk from where we were, according to him.
Pal was a splendid fellow but a hard luck case. He brought misfortune with him wherever he went. Upon himself and upon others. Horrible things happened to him and to anyone who happened to be in his company. Of course, he meant well. He always had good intentions. That’s what made him so exasperating. You just had to be in his presence in order for some catastrophe to occur.
According to him, at the outbreak of the revolution he was on his way as an actor. But he wanted to see the world. He left his wife and child for the West. But soon replaced them with another wife and child. He left them too. He settled down in Switzerland.. There he earned his living as a designer. An apartment a car and another wife and child. This time she left him. In Zurich he fell in love with a German nurse. He showed me her picture. Quite a dish. But Swiss law forbade concubinage, and Pal and the nurse were both foreigners. So in came the police. They gave him a rough time.

An understanding commissar took an interest him. He was offered the possibility of applying for citizenship and marrying. He refused they had intruded in his private life. He went home and wrecked his apartment. The furniture, the mirror, the pictures on the wall. Everything that was breakable was broken. Everything that could be cut, was cut. He left the apartment a shambles. He tried to hold onto the nurse, but of course, that was impossible. She went home to Munich. There was nothing left for him but to go back home too. He got into his car and drove to Budapest. At the border, they arrested him. After several months of interrogation and prison he was released. Free and penniless. He returned to the stage as a bit player, a walk-on. An additional marriage, another child. That too ended as the previous ones. He would fill the world with wives and children. He believed in the future. Not like me. I was too cautious. Too much of an intellectual. I weighed my decisions too carefully. At present he was living with a maternal woman who took care of him and was, of course, pregnant.

The short walk lasted for over an hour. We marched and marched with Pal. The dinner of stuffed cabbages was nothing to rave about and neither was the music.
On the way back Annette was quiet. She had had a hard day. In addition to the cultural park, she had been in a strenuous outdoor sequence.
We went to bed together that night. But Annette fell asleep immediately. The hike had  had been the clincher. Needless to say, I planned to spend the next day with her, minus Laszlo’s runt and Pal.
That morning, at breakfast, Herby dolefully told me that as soon as the verses were completed, Schmiltz planned to give me the sack. He felt empathy for me. The film Leporello didn’t want to lose his real-life Leporello. Schmiltz wanted him to take over as dialogue coach. There was only one hope of staying on the set. A rather slim one. I had to convince Fantel that the English script had to be doctored up. But this being a skin flick, the main concern lay in the presentation of skin and not in eloquent dialogue

And à propos skin. A propos Popo. They were preparing for the backside scene. The Baroque town square in Veszprém had.been enhanced by papièr mâché props. The extras were supposed to greet Napoleon in the previously mentioned manner. And after that they would run through the town chased by Napoleon’s soldiers.
Fate was closing in on me. The next messenger to deliver bad tidings was Pal. Another blow. Fantel wanted to add the female bit players to the extras in the mass backside scene. I was in a dither. The last thing that I wanted was for Annette to present her fanny to Fantel and the world.

There was a dispute. Communistic Puritanism versus capitalistic pragmatism. I had no illusions about the outcome. There seemed to be no end. It was Pal again. Laszlo had made a proposition to Annette. Either accept his runt or get off the set. And he was also at work, trying to get me out of the picture.
It was difficult to concentrate on the limericks. I was occupied with my problems. How to keep Annette out of the backside scene. How to keep Laszlo’s runt off her. And how to hang around. However, Deli and I did manage to put the finishing touches on the limericks.
The next step was to find Annette. But as I was about to search, Schmiltz appeared and walked in with Deli to where I could see but not hear. There was the awaited dispute between composer and producer. The loser was the writer.

As Schmiltz approached me, I could see the little man, his head covered by a casque, briefcase with plans in hand, heroically prancing over to the Russians. (He probably had French postcards in there too.) But this time the hero bounded over to give me the coup de grâce. I got my walking papers and just about enough money to take care of my fare.
Now that they had served me up on a platter, they would try to get Annette.
Then it was Pal again. Annette was leaving. Laszlo’s proposition had been the last straw. Pal had seen her heading for the bus station. If I could catch her, things would work out after all. We could go to Budapest together. Herby would lend us some money. I rushed to the station. As I got there, the driver closed the door. Annette was stoically sitting inside. She turned but seemed to be looking through me. Didn’t she see me? As the bus pulled out, I wanted to wave. But a weight held down my hand. The bus turned the corner and was gone. If I could only kill Laszlo and his brat. And Schmiltz and Fantel.

I felt an arm go over my shoulder. It was Pal. „Don’t take it too hard!“ he said. „She’s got a boyfriend in Budapest – a doctor. He’s married. But she’s hoping that he’ll divorce his wife and marry her.“
Annette had confided in Pal. Told him all about it. And he had said nothing to me.
“Why are you telling. me now?“ I asked. „Why didn’t you tell me before?“
He didn’t want to spoil my stay in Hungary. He wanted me to enjoy it. „Forget her,“ he said. „We’ve no shortage of pretty girls. A doctor, I thought. A doctor! God damn! A doctor had always shown up at inopportune times. But this one had been there all along. Herby didn’t get that rosy apple, but neither did I. It was the doctor who bit into it.