As coronavirus is making us stay at home these days, we’re relying more than ever on technology to keep in touch with work, family and friends. The Paprika Museum now picks a Hungarian cabaret scene that describes life in an apartment house in 1958 Budapest. Isn’t it ironic where humour comes from? 1958 Budapest, when people and the country were in deep depression. This cabaret scene is taking us to the same apartment complex in Budapest we wrote about in Home sweet home.
Pesti paprika on radio
In 1958 the Hungarian Radio broadcast a three-part cabaret series under the name Pesti paprika. The cabaret scenes are sassy, witty and funny and they give a whole new meaning to the terms “paprika” and “spice”. According to the cabaret host, Pesti paprika is a lot older than Szegedi paprika, it is as old as Buda and Pest. It is rooted in asphalt. It grows in apartment houses and offices. On concrete floors of factories and in smoke-filled coffee houses. Pesti paprika is the toughest plant in the world. It flourishes in heat and frost. No fire, flood, earthquake or war can do any harm in it. It is like a jungle plant: it grows speedily and it spreads everywhere. Pesti paprika is very similar to Szegedi paprika as both are spicy and hot. They only differ in the way people use them. Paprika from Szeged is food-seasoning, whereas Paprika from Pest seasons LIFE itself. Pesti paprika is humour and spirit. Pesti Paprika Cabaret stories are brought to you by PaprikaMolnár’s Paprika Museum.
This is Budapest calling!
We’re in an apartment complex in the Pest part of Budapest, in 1958 when private telephones are a rare asset. In this particular apartment house only Mr Cukor has a telephone set. His neighbours – Mr Pasternak, Mrs Darabont and Mr Oberländer – are all lining up to make phone calls. The communications system, however, is not perfect and Mr Pasternak is trying in vain to call his mother-in-law in Buda from Pest…
MR PASTERNAK: I’m sorry, Mr Cukor, for hitting your phone, but it’s driving me nuts… I’ve been trying to call my mother-in-law in Buda and I just can’t. But I’m gonna make this call no matter what!
MR CUKOR: Do as you wish, Mr Pasternak, as if the phone was yours.
MR PASTERNAK: Great! It’s ringing. Hello, I’m calling Grandma Mary… What? She’s not there? So, who’s speaking? Why do you pick up the phone when it’s not for you?! (He hangs up angrily.) I’m sorry. (There’s a knock on the door.)
MR CUKOR: Yes, come on in.
MRS DARABONT: (enters) Hello, Mr Cukor. Can I make a long-distance phone call?
MR PASTERNAK: (stands up and passes the phone to Mrs Darabont) Here you are. I’ll wait.
MRS DARABONT: (sits down and dials): Hello, this 3-8-4-3-7-6. I’d like to place an emergency call to Paris 2-2-1-1-9. Yes, there’s emergency. I know the charge is three times higher than for normal calls. Yes, I’ll wait. (Hangs up.) Mr Cukor, I’ll pay for the call, of course, when you’ve got the bill.
MR CUKOR: Sure.
MRS DARABONT: Hello, Lucy, is that you? This is Magda. Yes, I’m fine. Well, the thing is I wanna emigrate, so I need an invitation letter from you. Can you please just send the letter quickly? Thank you and good-bye, dear. (Hangs up.) Okay, I’m done. Thank you, Mr Cukor, good-bye. (Leaves.)
MR PASTERNAK: (Dials.) The line’s busy. (He’s nervous.)
MR CUKOR: Can you please stop chewing the telephone cable, Mr Pasternak? It won’t help. (Knocking at the door.) Yes, come one in!
MR OBERLäNDER (enters): Good morning. May I make a phone call, Mr Cukor? To London, only. I’ll pay for it, of course. (Leans down to dial.) Hello, this is 3-8-4-3-7-6 calling. I’d like to make an immediate emergency call to London W-1-8-5-6. Thank you.
MR CUKOR: Immediate? Emergency?
MR OBERLäNDER: Yes, I know they charge is five times more than for normal calls but it’s worth it. I needn’t wait. (International signal’s ringing.) Hello, Laszlo! I’m calling to tell you great news. Juliet has just had a baby boy this morning! Yes… He’s very smart! (Short pause.) How do I know the baby’s so smart? Well, it was a hard delivery. You see he didn’t wanna come to light! Good-bye to you. (Hangs up.) Thank you very much. Good-bye, Mr Cukor and Mr Pasternak. (Leaves.)
MR PASTERNAK: The purpose of hardships is to overcome them. (Dials.) Hello, Miss, this is 3-8-4-3-7-6. Can you please put me through to New York 1-2-5-5-4-1-9? It’s an immediate emergency call. I’m ready to pay even ten times higher charge. (Hangs up.)
MR CUKOR: What are you doing?
MR PASTERNAK: Listen, I’ve just solved our communications problem. (International signal’s ringing.) Hello, is this New York speaking? Mr Noodles? Hello, it’s Pasternak speaking! Can you please place an immediate call to Budapest 5-6-5-1-1-9 and tell my mother-in-law that we have movie tickets for tonight!
(Most names have been changed for easier reading and understanding.)
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