It’s Christmas Eve, kids. Get out there and earn some figgy pudding today! Make a joyful noise.
Archive for the ‘Music — Too many notes.’ Category
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989).
The Griswold family’s plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.
Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day
That’s the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas to you!
Randy Quaid said that he based a lot of Cousin Eddie’s mannerisms and delivery on a guy he knew growing up in Texas. Also, wearing the extremely obvious black dickie under his white sweater was Randy Quaid’s wife Evi’s idea.
Even more exciting fact about Randy Quaid: He went to high school with Brent Spiner! (That’s Data, if you are not a dork and have one of those “lives,” or whatever you people call them. And if you are still lost, Data is a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and may I add that it is weird that you are even reading this blog because you are way too cool for this school. I assume you are here for soft-core porn and nothing more.)
John Hughes, departed King of the Eighties, wrote but did not direct this modern holiday classic, in which the star-crossed Griswold clan takes a stab at Christmas. He based the screenplay on a story he wrote for National Lampoon magazine in December, 1980.
That story, “Christmas ’59,” was his follow-up to “Christmas ’58,” his story from the previous year, on which National Lampoon’s Vacation was based. “Christmas ’59″ is referenced in the movie when Clark goes up to the attic. As he goes through old tapes and reels, he passes a box that says “Xmas ’59.”
The scene where the cat bites on the Christmas lights cord and gets electrocuted was nearly cut from the movie. Prior to the first test screening. the studio execs wanted the scene taken out, fearing that it might offend some viewers, but producer Matty Simmons begged them to leave the scene in, and they eventually gave in to his request. After the first test screening, the test audience had scored the cat electrocution scene as the No. 1 favorite scene throughout the entire movie.
I’m not the least surprised: test audiences are notoriously bloodthirsty.
I’m not sure from where they pull these twisted test audience members, but it’s a super-prevalent problem. As an example, it was a test audience who suggested that scene where the witch is drinking horse blood from a hollowed out hoof be left in My Little Pony: The Movie.
All the houses on the street in the Griswolds’ neighborhood are on the Warner Bros. backlot. The house in which the a-hole yuppies live is the Murtaugh house from the Lethal Weapon film series. The housefront in the home movie when Clark is upstairs in the attic was first used in Bewitched and then in the 1980′s in The New Gidget.
I am not a fan of defining gals by the dudes they’ve notched on their belts but I do bring it up if it’s as noteworthy as this case. Beverly D’Angelo has had a very, um, varied love life that includes marriage to a duke who is a descendant of Lorenzo de’Medici, Al Pacino, director Neil Jordan, and Anton Furst, who committed suicide after their separation. She’s got twins with Pacino and will be seen next year in Nailed, a David O. Russell picture also starring Jessica Biel, Kirstie Alley, Jon Stewart, Tracy Morgan, and Catherine Keener. Juts a bunch of super-cool funny guys. No big deal.
This was all brand-new news to me. I’m pretty surprised. I guess I did not know shit about Beverly D’Angelo.
The film is aired every Christmas night in Australia on the Nine Network. In America, it has a more tortured television history involving corporate games and censure. And let us not speak of the Cousin Eddie Island Adventure sequel.
Bethany is played by Mae Questel. The former mimic and vaudeville sensation is probably most famous for providing the squeaky voices of Olive Oyl and Betty Boop. This was her second to last role: she retired from show biz and died of complications related to Alzheimer’s in 1998.
As the unsinkable Clark Griswold of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Chevy Chase survives a holiday season that would try Job’s patience. His dreams of “the most fun-filled old-fashioned family Christmas ever” soon give way to the realities of bulbs that won’t light and a pine that’s too big for the living room.
(Kempley, Rita. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” December 1, 1989. The Washington Post.)
Never mind. Clark’s faith in family tradition is Rockwellian, his spirits up there with the mistletoe. When the yule log smolders and the turkey explodes, this avowed family man counts his blessings, such as they are.
The third and final “Tim Burton” film in the 12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movie countdown is The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993). The guy has two favorite times of year and we all know what they are.
Regarding just how much of a Tim Burton film it really ended up being, Mr. Selick told Sight and Sound in 1994,
It’s as though he laid the egg, and I sat on it and hatched it. He wasn’t involved in a hands-on way, but his hand is in it. It was my job to make it look like “a Tim Burton film”, which is not so different from my own films. …
Be that as it may, Burton had conceived the project while still working for Disney back in 1980. It was originally a narrative poem. He began toying with the idea of making something of it. Disney agreed, and they discussed a short film like Vincent, or maybe a televised holiday special.
He shared his vision with friend Rick Heinrichs in the mid-1980′s, and the two worked up some concept art, storyboards, and even early character sculptures. By the time Burton actually had a budget for the movie from Disney, he was overextended across the board with Ed Wood and Batman Returns. He brought in his friend Mike McDowell, with whom he’d worked on Beetlejuice, but they couldn’t agree on a direction for the screenplay.
Burton reimagined the story as a musical and put together the bare bones of it with Danny Elfman’s help, also collaborating on most of the music and lyrisc. Then Caroline Thompson, who Burton worked with on Batman Returns, came in as a writer. She has also written The Addams Family, Edward Scissorhands, and Corpse Bride. Caroline first came to Tim Burton’s attention because of a short story she wrote in the early ’80′s called First Born, in which an abortion comes back to life.
Director Henry Selick said in that same Sight and Sound article where he dissed Burton, “there are very few lines of dialogue that are Caroline’s. She became busy on other films and we were constantly rewriting, reconfiguring and developing the film visually.” Okay, Henry. We get it. You did it all, buddy.
In all honesty, the guy is an artistic auteur, with the attendant talent that entails, and it probably sucks for him to have to rely on other people so much in a project. And he probably did do more than anyone else. Hence: director.
In vino lepidopteras.
The stop-motion animation was produced by a crew of over 200 animators in San Francisco, headed up by Joe Ranft and Paul Berry. The production yielded some cool new inventions, including a silent alarm that went off if a light failed to go on during a shot.
For just one second of film, up to 12 stop-motion moves had to be made. Can you imagine this being done today? When even the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is done with CGI? I feel like there is an aesthetic suffering accompanying the automated innovations in the direction that film has been heading. I can’t see a production like The Nightmare Before Christmas, with the meticulous labor and attention to craft it requires, being approved and given a budget by Disney today.
Although that’s not totally fair, since they’ve been doing that 3-D re-release thing. I guess I should not be quite so cynical about The Mouse Who Sold the World. I just really, really dislike that company.
On the other hand, sourpuss Mr. Selick is something of a dear and mercurial curmudgeon to me. He has continued working in stop-motion since The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I have a deep respect for the artistry in his body of work.
He has directed Coraline and James and the Giant Peach, and worked with Wes Anderson on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Although I find it curious that he seems to have had nothing to do with Fantastic Mr. Fox if Life Aquatic was Anderson’s first foray in to stop-motion (which, once you see Fantastic Mr. Fox, you feel like it should have been his exclusive genre all along: the static stiltedness of Anderson’s compositions, against which his wildly inventive dialogue is such a perfect foil, are absolutely born for stop-motion).
I’m guessing from the stories about the rest of Mr. Selick’s projects that they probably stopped seeing eye to eye on something and Anderson went his separate way.
Collaborator Joe Ranft, the one who headed up production in the City, the 415, the sparkly town where we leave our hearts, for The Nightmare Before Christmas, said that Selick “has a rock’n'roll meets Da Vinci temperament,” with bursts of brilliance and, occasionally, the passionate need for solitude.
Mr. Selick is presently working on an adaptation of the YA mystery-comedy Bunnicula, which makes me want to cry with joy. I only hope it is successful enough that they can do one of the sequels: The Celery Stalks At Midnight, which I have believed since I was seven years old to be the greatest pun ever written in my native tongue.
If you want more of the backstory on all this Nightmare Before Christmas production shenanigans, pick up a copy of the Frank Thompson book Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Film – The Art – The Vision, to read all about it.
All photos via the Pumpkin Patch.
Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988).
A cynically selfish TV executive gets haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.
Why, it’s Lee Majors!
Santa, is there a back way out of this place?
Of course there is, Lee, but this is one Santa that’s going out the front door.
Seven o’clock. Psychos seize Santa’s workshop, and only Lee Majors can stop them … The Night The Reindeer Died.”
The head street caroler that Frank insults during the production scenes at “IBC” is played by Paul Shaffer. David Sanborn, Larry Carlton, and Miles Davis are the others.
“When I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in love, L-U-V.”
It just blows my mind that David Johansen was in the New York Dolls and, like, randomly is this insanely talented Renaissance man. Buster Poindexter, voice work, Oz … and I totally forgive him for “Hot Hot Hot.” He doesn’t like it either. He said on NPR (apparently, I don’t know for certain because I do not like NPR) that the song was “the bane of my existence.”
A choo-choo train?
No, it’s not a choo-choo train. It’s five pounds of veal.
He’s only four years old.
All day long, I listen to people give me excuses why they can’t work… ‘My back hurts,’ ‘my legs ache,’ ‘I’m only four!’ The sooner he learns life isn’t handed to him on a silver platter, the better!
Who doesn’t love Karen Allen? Whoever you are, you’re a horrible person. Those shiny eyes, the determined little butt chin, the freckledy hands and toothy smile? The lady’s like Margot Kidder’s classy cousin.
When Carol Kane was beating up on Bill Murray during shooting, she accidentally tore his lip for real. They had to halt production for a couple days ’til his lip was better. Moral of the story is, don’t fuck with Carol Kane. Not ever.
In the future, all ladies will dress like geishas on Designing Women. Unless …
Psst. It’s Wendy Malick. And one of the friends at their party is Pete from Dharma and Greg. Pass it on.
But all of this is practically an aside, when the true main attraction is —
— Bobcat Goldthwaite as disgruntled ex-employee Elliot Loudermilk. Man, it is a little known fact, but I would leave it all behind without a second glance for Bobcat Goldthwaite. I especially like when he sells his blood. I tried to do that once with plasma, you know, the hard shit, but the snobs at the blood bank turned me down. Said my veins were too small for the needle used in the plasmapheresis process. So I stumbled to the bus and then walked home from my stop carrying my shoes. Lord, how I wish this was a fable.
[Elliot] Hello, IBC program room?
This is Rhinelander. Who’s the idiot that put that nut on the air?
Oh, Brice Cummings is the idiot, sir, but he can’t talk to you right now because he’s sort of … tied up. Yeah, uh-huh — oh, in fact, he just said that you were a flatulating butthead.
Mmm. He said he’s never felt this way about a man before, but you really look good in a suit.
In all honesty, the conversion speech at the end is not terribly heartfelt (it’s much easier to believe Bill Murray as the embittered cynic he portrays through the rest of the movie), but we knew it would end cheesey from the get-go and you sign on for the whole package: you have to love it, too. And the rest of the package is highly tolerable.
Flashback Friday, New Years’ Resolution Reality Check #1 — Music Moment: Les Paul and Mary Ford, “Goofus”December 10, 2010
This entry was originally posted on January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm. It contains the second of my New Years’ Resolutions for 2010. Over the next several Flashback Fridays, I will be taking them out, dusting them off, and seeing how well I followed through. I do not anticipate it always being pleasant, but the truth can’t be.
Les Paul & Mary Ford – Goofus
This recording of “Goofus” (King-Harold-Kahn, 1930), one of my favorite songs, is just instrumental. It’s performed by legendary husband-wife duo Les Paul and Mary Ford (so, so, so much more on them another day).
The Paul-Ford version topped out at #21 on the Billboard chart on its release in the early Fall of 1950. The ensemble Paul and Ford had gathered is plucky and fun, although I have heard recordings from the ’30′s with saws and washboards which sort of put ukes and slides in the shade, but you work with what you got, and they did a great job re-popularizing a well-loved classic.
It really gets me that there was a time in this country when there was a) a set of songs that everyone knew, and b) a time when you picked up an instrument and sat down together and played, sometimes just as a family, but often as part of a larger community group. What happened? Radio killed the vaudeville star, but, moreover, the vaudeville star took group singalongs and skit shows down with him. No more public singing.
People just don’t do that often enough anymore, I think. I remember reading, quite a few years back, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (I consequently did not see the movie), and, in one of the super-tolerable parts, a character aged in her mid-70′s during the 1990′s was remarking on the emptiness of the sounds one hears walking the streets in the present day. She recalled being a child and teenager in the ’20′s and ’30′s, and how you could not so much as hang the laundry without hearing someone whistling or singing a street over or while walking past the yard.
“One Last Tickle on the Ivorys,” St. Ebba’s Lunatic Asylum, by Christopher O’Donovan on the flickr.
The idea of that touched me very deeply, because it resonated. I have always liked music, and always known a little about the history of radio and the record industry, being a big vinyl guy, and I’m not saying even at all that radio itself massacred town talent shows, I think increasing materialism and isolationism happened to dovetail with that new mass media, and long story short: it should change back. We need more of that old way of doing things, especially now, when so many people have lost hope and there are young people growing up for whom there are no stories about uncles who sang Irish tenor or great-grandmothers that could play the spoons.
It’s always fun to find out what hidden talents your friends and neighbors have (unless those talents are taxidermy and soundproofing basements), and it brings communities closer together. I think I remember hearing that a song is like a prayer times two, or some such thing, and I believe it. Everything is better with music.
I used to perform in singing groups and church choirs, and even participated in competitive choral groups in High School. The older I’ve gotten, the more I have grown very shy about my singing, but why? Half of what I hear on the radio has been triple-processed and slickly produced, and who cares if someone hears me fall a little flat? The spirit and song in my heart that made me so happy, that urge to open my throat that I couldn’t repress, that hasn’t changed, so why do I let fear and modern ideals of social behavior fence me in?
Holy cow, I think I just found my second resolution of 2010: Make a joyful noise. Join me, y’all!
Reality Check: I did not do as well as I wanted on this one. I started sporadically singing in my friends’ “band practice” Rock Band video game nights, but I did not join my church choir, which was what I really wanted to do. Partly intimidation because the director is an old friend, partly feeling too busy (excuse). I guess where I feel I really failed is I did not keep that song in my heart that I felt when I had written this originally. I need to try to get that feeling back.
R.I.P., John Lennon.
A thousand heartfelt wishes for peaceful rest to the Eggman,* and most fervent hopes that we live up to his expectations in his absence. Jai guru deva om, dude.
*(Do not give me that sass that he was the Walrus. The Walrus was Paul. They said so in “Green Onion.” Tell a friend.)
All pictures via diolovesrainbows.
This entry was originally posted on November 10, 2009 at 10:21 pm. Some pictures and more action descriptions have been added.
This post was originally accompanied by screen captures from a spotty YouTube video. I’ve capped the extras from Goonies myself since then, so I’ve got much clearer versions now. Also at the bottom you may enjoy lovely bonus caps of the madness.
Back to the original.
Today after I picked up kidlet from kindergarten, we jetted down to Ceres for some gloomy day movie cheer. Clue strangely put us to sleep but then Miss D, kidlet, and I watched us the crap out of some Goonies. We watched every single feature it had. Maybe even to our detriment.
One of the features we watched, which I'd never seen before in its … I'm not sure what to call it? totality?, was a two-part music video put together by director Richard Donner and theme songstress/my fantasy fairy godmother Cyndi Lauper, with a cameo by producer Steven Spielberg, to promote the film. I don't even have words for the surreality of watching the video. It was really something. I will not soon forget it. These are my neutral words.
The video features
World Wrestling Federation pro-wrestlers André the Giant, Captain Lou Albano, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Wendy Richter, The Fabulous Moolah, The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Freddie Blassie; Steven Spielberg; The Goonies cast (except for Kerri Green, Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Davi and John Matuszak*); and the relatively unknown Bangles as a group of female pirates. Roseanne Barr appears as the “sea hag”. Lauper’s mother appears as “Cyndi’s mother”, reprising her role from “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”.
The plot runs like this: Cyndi’s folks run a Mom and Pop gas station that has fallen on tough times. They are packing up and ready to come west to Californny or some such to start a new life and meet Peter Fonda, when they think they have customers! Is the station saved?? Wonderful!
Psych. Turns out it’s the creditors. The gas station is being bought out by villains from the WWF, each attired as a different weird stereotype. Unfortunately, they also have dialogue.
Cyndi and her brother? friend? and sister? his wife? are helping Mom and Pop (Cap’n Lou) pack up the ol’ place when the action begins.
The nouveau riche, stereotyped creditors chew up the scenery and generally set up quickie symbols of their wealth, such as a Benihana-type joint in the middle of the parking lot, which many consider the international sign of good taste and refinement, some to the point of exclusion. (Do not even try to talk dimsum on rollerskates to them; they will not listen.) The hibachi flows like wine and the wine is snorted like cocaine. In fact, there is no wine. It is just cocaine. Off-camera.
Cyndi discovers a secret cave behind a painting of their grand-ancestor, where she encounters the Goonies, who help her decode a map she lifted off a dead guy — real fuckin’ nice, Cyn.
The we get a nice long look at the same clips America had been seeing for several months in the Goonies trailer, and you think maybe it’s done? but no. Suddenly, some pirates show up (psst, it is the WWF guys IN DISGUISE — could it all be a dream, but a real adventure, too, a la The Wizard of Oz?), and Roseanne Barr. Oh my god, nightmare combination! The Bangles are there, too, but they do not try to sing.
In the chase that ensues, Cyndi stops real quick for some hibachi, creating a prevalent and provocative ongoing theme in the video.
Perhaps this is meant to make us reflect on the marketing of foreign cuisine in America, or on materialism and the ease with which an ordinary item common to one country can acquire peculiar clout in another country. Or perhaps it is merely included in order to set up a joke that is some straight racist garbage: ie, the following picture’s caption.
The pirates and the sea hag enslave the kids at murky tasks like, um, stirring big pots, and force Cyndi to dress like a Floridian prostitute while carrying buckets and singing (they do not allow her to stop singing even once).
via hhhelloalex on the tumblr.
If he is only in it for the pussy … it’s working. I am not deterred by today’s Hot Man’s facelessness nor non-existence. I can break down exactly why this sketch of a gentleman melts my cold, cold heart.
a) Girls Like A Boy Who Plays Music.
b) Dressed like Han Solo.
c) Dressed like Han Solo (counts at least twice).
d) Looks like he could not borrow my jeans.
Emo boys, I have given you warnings in the past, but I’m still seeing these skinny jeans and “jeggings” hanging off your narrow heinies all around the town. Let me phrase it to you less delicately than in the past.
If you look like you could literally get in my pants, you are not getting in my pants.
/End PSA. Now please refer to the handsome faceless internet drawing of what a real man looks like, and eat some spaghetti, Slappy.
edit: The lyrics are from “Awake My Soul” by Mumford and Sons. Here is what I assume to be the inspiration for the drawing:
Nothing to complain about, but is it weird that I like the drawing better? It isn’t anything so explicable and logically psychological like that the facelessness implies more tantalizing possibility: I genuinely just prefer the drawing to the dude. Could be the camera angle making him look shorter and thinner. Don’t worry, guy, you are still okay. Maybe give the other one a Twinkie, though.
Love Actually (Richard Curtis, 2004).
‘Tis the season for quaint loving customs like swearing a blue streak! I had a wonderful day with my family and special extended loved ones yesterday, and today I am sliding on down to C-town for Miss D and my semi-annual viewing of Love Actually. It’s the most wonnnnderful tiiiime of the year. (So is July; don’t ask us why.)
Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Textual healing — Art of the cover with guest tour through E’s “process.”November 23, 2010
via lemonlove on the tumblr.
Great. Now what am I supposed to name my first album?
I didn’t want to retread the first joke because I feel weird stealing from myself, plus I had to manhandle it too much to make it work for this post (the original joke referred to my daughter, who was in utero, and had been shorter and far more topical). As for the latter, it not only did not include a small, personal way of tying us all together as poster and readers, but it more importantly repeated the word “blow” too much for my taste, since it just appeared in the picture already. Ergo, “what am I to call my album,” which had instinctively been my joke when I saved the thing to begin with, won.
Aren’t you pleased as punch by this glimpse in to my ultra-sophisticated process?
Flashback Friday — Advice on friendship, feminine power, and finding your tribe: NSFW Drew BarrymoreOctober 15, 2010
This post originally appeared on on November 14, 2009 at 3:15 pm.
“I also love to explore what defines who you are, and friendship, and how you love to rock out with your best friend and cruise and drive and listen to the Ramones and play air guitar, and yet at the same time, they will come and slap you when you’re acting out of line. I love the themes that I put on the poster: ‘Be your own hero’ and ‘Find your tribe.’ Those are two things that are really important in my life.”
(interview with the AV Club’s Sam Adams, October 1, 2009, for Whip It)
“I love empowering women, and I love women that are capable. The one thing that I’m not crazy about are women that feel like they have to be a man to live in a man’s world, or that men have the upper hand. These women have this bitter chip on their shoulder, and that’s not really sexy. I like girls who have got each other’s backs. …
… I don’t like cattiness, either. I hate seeing women be rude to each other. Oh God. I don’t like man-haters, and I don’t like back-stabbers. I like chicks who can fuckin’ rip it up, pull shit off, and want to go for a beer with each other at the end of the day!”
(“Whip It! interview with director Drew Barrymore,” Chris de Salvo, The Scorecard Review, September 30, 2009).
edit: When I posted this the first time, I had not yet seen Whip It. I watched it a couple months ago with Lo-Bo and Miss D and I thought it was great. From a critical standpoint, sure, I’m not stacking it up against Once Upon A Time In the West or The Godather: Part II, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t qualify as “great” in my book. You’re definitely not going to see some special release of it in the Criterion Collection, all fancy with laurel leaves around the names of the writers or anything, but it’s a fun flick whose cast is piled high with my favorite kind of women: flaky, unique, and funny.
It’s got a great noisy riot grrl soundtrack, too. I work out to a lot of songs from it. That’s right, she writes and she takes care of a bangin’ body. Call me.
edit 5/3/11: Welcome, Yvette Vickers fans! For those unfamiliar with the site who are just swinging by to take a gander at Ms. Vickers’ Playboy spread, a quick heads-up — clicking on any picture enlarges it. Have fun!
I know it isn’t technically seasonally appropriate anymore, but as it’s going to hit 99, Fahrenheit, where I am today, and as I did not get around to all my saved up Girls of Summer, and as I promised to cover Ms. Vickers when discussing Fifty Foot Woman, I figured you wouldn’t mind if I made the summer a little more endless around here.
Ms. Vickers’ spread appeared after her part as Honey Parker in Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman and some other delightful B-flicks, but the Playboy write-up does not report this and focuses instead on her early love of coffeehouses and the bohemian lifestyle. It’s an interesting glimpse at her life outside of stardom, especially given that she was sort of stuck in these roles as a sexy blonde starlet which belied her active intellect and charming, offbeat personal interests. Of course, there was a lot of that going around back then: ask Ms. Monroe and Ms. Tate, right?
When [Playboy] spied Yvette Vickers at a small table in Hollywood’s Cosmo Alley, that question became an affirmative, exclamatory statement. Yvette — though possibly a mite more attractive than most — is representative of the girls who inhabit the beat coffee houses of Hollywood.
(“Beat Playmate.” Playboy, July 1959.)
She’s interested in serious acting, ballet, the poetry of Dylan Thomas, classical music (“Prokofiev drives me out of my skull!”). She has strong opinions and is more than a bit of a rebel, frowning prettily on conformity. She is also reckless and uninhibited enough to race a Jag in the desert for kicks.
Right on! Big ups to Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf, “The March of the Three Oranges”) and dragging Jags! And of course, mad props to going ungently into the night with Dylan Thomas.
So for 1959, she was well ahead of the health food curve. Don’t you love how “organic food restaurant” is in scare quotes? It’s cute. This write-up just tickles me. I think it is really cool and neat that Yvette Vickers was a beatnik.
It’s not a total surprise — Ms. Vickers was raised by two jazz musicians, Charlie and Iola Vedder (she went by Maria), with whom Yvette traveled the country and also recorded. They later settled in Los Angeles, where Ms. Vickers attended Catholic high school. (You know we Catholic girls start much too late!) Before catching the acting bug, she took classes at UCLA to become a writer. She then earned her B.A. in Theater Arts.
Films in which Ms. Vickers appeared include Reform School Girl, Shortcut to Hell, Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, Attack of the Giant Leeches, and Beach Party (she played “Blonde Yoga Girl — recall our previous discussion of the AIP beach flicks?). She also had small roles in Sunset Blvd and Hud, but you know I’m far more in love with the wonderful B-credits.
Ms. Vickers was also featured in a slew of television parts, with roles on highly popular shows like Mike Hammer, Bat Masterson, the Rough Riders, The Texan, Northwest Passage, and Dragnet. In his book Stephen King: On Writing, Stephen King listed Yvette Vickers as one of his “matinee idols.”
The photographer of this spread, Russ Meyer, has had a long and (in my book) illustrious career which must really deserve its own entry one of these days. As this is Ms. Vickers’ entry, I will wind down by saying that the lovely and talented singer, model, and actress has continued to work in the arts and keeps on rocking in the free world. You can hear Yvette on the audio commentary track of the 2007 DVD release of Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman and pick up her CD “Tribute to Charlie and Maria,” a jazz album she dedicated to her parents in the late 90′s — and keep your eyes peeled for her forthcoming autobiography.
Delores Wells, Playboy’s Miss June 1960, shares her October 17th birthday with the anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, which stopped the World Series and collapsed the Cypress Structure on the Nimitz Freeway and part of the Bay Bridge, and with the birthday of my dearest old friendoh Big Ben, who I’ve gotten to see twice this month and am super glad of it (a much more cheery connection).
At the time of her Playboy appearance, Ms. Wells was living in Chicago, like a lot of the early centerfolds. She worked as a bunny in the Chicago club. Sources suggest that Ms. Wells made $1,000 per week working at the club, but that her payment for this pictorial was only $500.
The above picture did not make it in to the original spread because Ms. Wells’ pubic hair was slightly visible, which god forbid — until the Pubic Wars of the 70′s.
Ms. Wells eventually wung her way west and appeared in several of the surf-rock propelled, beach party movies that were popular in this era: Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, and Bikini Beach.
Beach party movies came up for us recently in the context of Sharon Tate’s Actual Life Awareness Month, but I had not taken the time to discuss them because I was trying to stick to my self-imposed edict of keeping the spotlight on Ms. Tate. In this post I am beholden to no such stringency and will tell you all about it.
American International Pictures produced the first “beach party” movie, titled, go figure, Beach Party in 1963. I do not count the Gidget movies. Wikipedia does, but I do not. In my opinion the AIP beach movies were too different to give Gidget inspiration credit, and had a totally different market and theme in mind. Also I have been a huge Connie Francis guy since birth, and even though I know it is stupid and pointless, I bear a grudge against Sandra Dee for being the one who got to marry Bobby Darin. Yes, I know: stupid and pointless.
Following the success of Beach Party, AIP cooked up more films featuring beachy monkey shines, about seven in all, which mainly served as frontispieces for selling the motion picture soundtracks with appearances from popular musicians of the era. (You know — like Shrek movies.)
Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon starred in the majority of the AIP beach party flicks, and players like Ms. Wells appeared regularly as the same “Type” of person, though sometimes with different character names from film to film. The important thing was their recognizable persona. You know, the giggly flirts, the schoolbookish types, the buffed dimwits, etc … and, of course, the ne’er do wells. In the AIP beach party movies, the ne’er do wells were the comically inept Rats & Mice.
Oh, the decorative sex*. Hands-down my favorite shot.
The villains of the story were usually biker Eric Von Zipper (played by comic actor Harvey Lembeck as a parody of Marlon Brando in The Wild One) and his inept gang the Rat Pack, or “Rats & Mice”.
The most popular running gag of the beach party series is “The Himalayan Suspender” technique, originated by Professor Sutwell in Beach Party, in which the forefinger is pressed against a certain part of the skull, rendering the victim paralyzed. The victim of this move (aka “The finger”) was always [Rats & Mice leader] Eric Von Zipper, who learned it from Sutwell and threatened people with it in subsequent films, calling it “The Rats’ Revenge.”
However, Von Zipper’s finger never worked on others, only himself. Once Von Zipper became paralyzed (usually with a big open-mouthed smile on his face), the Rats & Mice would carry him out and declare “Eric Von Zipper will return!”
I am pretty sure one of my girlfriends in high school lay “the finger” on our other friend as he knelt between us in Math class trying to coax my friend to share more of her large water bottle full of vodka mixed with orange juice, from which we’d been healthily improving our outlook on the late morning for at least a half hour. We told him to go away before he made it obvious what was going on, but he was having none of it.
I was particularly concerned about “maintaining” because I was not the kind of student who got in trouble, living a very weird double life in which I outwardly exemplified a golden student and banner citizen and genuinely cared about service to others and studying for tests, yet I also secretly ditched school, drank, and smoked. I was too young at that time to reconcile those behaviors with one another. I was also worried because I was better friends with his sister than with this guy, though he too was a friend, and I looked up to her as a role model, and my opinion at that time was that the less he knew about my bad behavior, the better.
Exasperated and sympathetic to my worries, my girlfriend made hoo-doo signs in the air over our annoying friend’s head and elaborately pressed her index finger to the middle of his forehead, and he did a method face plant from his knees in to the carpet of the classroom.
We thought this was hysterical.
I have no idea how any of this was going on while a teacher was in the room, but that shit would never fly with me. My covertly misspent youth is a mixed blessing for my students: I am empathetic to their desire to break the mold and be bad, and party down and word up and whathaveyou in the process of living their life, man, but I am simultaneously wise to their shenanigans. The hell you are flashing a pack of Marlboros in here, young lady — if the girls’ bathroom during passing period was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you; and you may save your joints for behind the tennis court like everyone else since time out of mind, mister.
Coda about the three characters in this anecdote, as we stand fifteen years later. My girlfriend in this story’s son and my daughter were baptized together five years ago. She works as a physician’s assistant. The guy on whom we lay the finger and I got high a few years later on the state seal the night before he went to join the Marines, or maybe the Air Force. I’d gotten over my hang-up about fearing too greatly the judgment of people I cared about. We stumbled to the Hard Rock Cafe and ate our weight in onion rings, and he told them it was my birthday even though it wasn’t, so we scored free dessert. Later he worked as the music teacher at our Catholic high school in town and is now pursuing a full-time career in Los Angeles as a musician.
I am now substitute teaching at the very church at which we all met, and drive every day past the high school in the story. All that time I wanted to drink and smoke away the trapped feeling of the pressure of living in this town, which shrinks the longer you live here and the more people you know, so that a town of 215k or so can start to feel quite small indeedy, and now I like it just fine. Did I mellow out, or did I sell out? I think the former.
One of the above pictures has made an appearance here before, in the inaugural “Showdown!” edition. I’ve totally dropped the ball on “Showdown!”s. Those were fun. All apologies: will remedy it soon, promise.
Coda to Ms. Wells’ story: the very lovely and talented Ms. Wells continued to work in film and television in Los Angeles. Later, she worked for a while as personal secretary to the late Linda Lovelace, controversial star of Deep Throat. They met at a party at the Mansion in Holmby Hills. I assume her time with Ms. Lovelace ended before Ms. Lovelace’s denunciation of the pornography industry.
Ms. Wells is still alive and kicking and will celebrate her 73rd birthday this coming October 17th, which brings us full circle to the beginning of an entry that it’s taken me four days to write. Again, all apologies — had a lot of dogs in the fire, Stanimal. No reflection on marvelous Ms. Wells or the AIP beach flicks. This post has now reminded me that I need a movie moment on both Deep Throat and the magnificent camp parody Psycho Beach Party. I’ll try to get to that, I swar to gar! All y’all keep on rockin’ in the free world and please forgive me my absences.
*Phrase borrowed with amused admiration from chainedandperfumed right here on the wordpress, then googled and found to be of even more apt camp and vintage. Thanks for the loan, c&p. Truly you are the O.G. of this biz.