Posts Tagged ‘1967’

Movie Millisecond: Mouchette

October 28, 2010


via.

Mouchette (Robert Bresson, 1967).

Movie Moment: Bonnie and Clyde

September 30, 2010

Promised a Movie Moment yesterday on Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), and here it is. The night that I first saw this film is one of those instances that really stands, clear, head and shoulders above others in my mind. I was a sophomore in high school and my father and I had got takeout Chinese food and rented Bonnie and Clyde some weekend when my mother was doing some church lady thing (now I’m a church lady, too … time marches on). As an already solid gold Daddy’s Girl, when my father told me it was “a very important movie,” and that “you will love it,” I was set with anticipation. Also, I really like Chinese food.


I had already read, a few years earlier, a good-sized, detailed book about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker that I’d picked up at a thrift store. Lots of pictures, reprints of Bonnie’s poems, the whole nine. But what I saw was not what I remembered reading. I was surprised at the many deviations in the screenplay from the true accounts of their partnership and crimes that I’d read, yet I found the movie so absorbing and excellent, such a blend of glamour and grit, that I didn’t mind the liberties at all. I was totally taken with it — especially Faye Dunaway and her costumes and styling. Dad warned me to look away at the end, but of course I didn’t, and I gaped at the dancing corpses. This, I knew, was accurate, but to see it on the screen brought the unbelievably vivid violence of it to a shocking level that my imagination had not reached when I only read about their deaths. I thought then, and think now, that it’s one of the best movies ever made.

But not everyone shares my view. Especially initially, some critics outspokenly hated Bonnie and Clyde:

It is a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cutups in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

(“Movie Review: Bonnie and Clyde.” Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times. 14 April 1967.)



Such ridiculous, camp-tinctured travesties of the kind of people these desperados were and of the way people lived in the dusty Southwest back in those barren years might be passed off as candidly commercial movie comedy, nothing more, if the film weren’t reddened with blotches of violence of the most grisly sort.

(Ibid.)

Oh, noes. Violence. That has no place in a movie.


Arthur Penn, the aggressive director, has evidently gone out of his way to splash the comedy holdups with smears of vivid blood as astonished people are machine-gunned. And he has staged the terminal scene of the ambuscading and killing of Barrow and Bonnie by a posse of policemen with as much noise and gore as is in the climax of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth.

(Ibid.)


“As pointless as it is lacking in taste because it makes no valid commentary on the already travestied truth.” Let’s explore that criticism, shall we?

According to statements made by [posse members] Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn:

“Each of us six officers had a shotgun and an automatic rifle and pistols. We opened fire with the automatic rifles. They were emptied before the car got even with us. Then we used shotguns … There was smoke coming from the car, and it looked like it was on fire. After shooting the shotguns, we emptied the pistols at the car, which had passed us and ran into a ditch about 50 yards on down the road. It almost turned over. We kept shooting at the car even after it stopped. We weren’t taking any chances.”

(the wiki.)



The lawmen then opened fire, killing Barrow and Parker while shooting a combined total of approximately 130 rounds. Barrow was killed instantly by [an] initial head shot, but Parker had a moment to reflect; Hinton reported hearing her scream as she realized Barrow was dead before the shooting at her began in earnest. The officers emptied the specially ordered automatic rifles, as well as other rifles, shotguns and pistols at the car, and any one of many wounds would have been fatal to either of the fugitives.

(Ibid.)



Officially, the tally in Parish coroner Dr. J. L. Wade’s 1934 report listed seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow’s body and twenty-six on Parker’s, including several headshots on each, and one that had snapped Barrow’s spinal column. So numerous were the bullet holes that undertaker C. F. “Boots” Bailey would have difficulty embalming the bodies because they wouldn’t contain the embalming fluid.

(Ibid.)

So … maybe that outburst of unthinkable retributive violence on the side of the law had a little something to do with the film’s objectionably grisly ending? Just a very, very belated thought for the late Mr. Crowther, who I must add with real respect was an esteemed and important critic in his time — pretty much until this review. All the cool kids stopped listening to him and assumed he was part of the stuffy establishment, and his reputation suffered. I think he really was not ready for this picture, is all.

Contrary to how he comes off in the review owing to our modern hindsight, Bosley Crowther had a very open mind, wrote against HUAC as curtailing art and freethinking, a brave and dangerous thing to do in the 1950s, and praised films with strong social content while disdaining jingoism and oversimplification of political ideas. Mr. Crowther insisted on the relevancy of foreign film to English-speaking audiences and did great things for the careers of some of my favorite overseas directors, including Fellini, Bergman, and Roberto Rossellini. That — to me — pitch-perfect mix of braggadocio and embellishment, expositorily satirical idealism, and vérité in Bonnie and Clyde, together with the innovative cinematic discourse which has been cited as ushering in a new era in Hollywood, just seems to have put him over the edge.




In any case, Bosley Crowther was not the only reviewer who found himself initially less than thrilled by Bonnie and Clyde.

Beatty, playing the lead, does a capable job, within the limits of his familiar, insolent, couldn’t-care-less manner, of making Barrow the amiable varmint he thought himself to be. Barrow fancied himself something of a latterday Robin Hood, robbing only banks that were foreclosing on poor farmers and eventually turning into a kind of folk hero. But Faye Dunaway’s Sunday-social prettiness is at variance with any known information about Bonnie Parker.

(“Cinema: Low-Down Hoedown.” Time. 25 August 1967.)


Variety disagreed with Time‘s slight of Faye Dunaway, saying

Like the film itself, the performances are mostly erratic. Beatty is believable at times, but his characterization lacks any consistency. Miss Dunaway is a knockout as Bonnie Parker, registers with deep sensitivity in the love scenes, and conveys believability to her role.

(“Film: Bonnie and Clyde.” Kaufman, David. Variety. 9 Aug 1967.)


Overall, however, Mr. Kaufman pans the film, saying,

Warren Beatty’s initial effort as a producer incongruously couples comedy with crime … Conceptually, the film leaves much to be desired, because killings and the backdrop of the Depression are scarcely material for a bundle of laughs. … This inconsistency of direction is the most obvious fault of Bonnie and Clyde, which has some good ingredients, although they are not meshed together well. … Arthur Penn’s direction is uneven, at times catching a brooding, arresting quality, but often changing pace at a tempo that is jarring.

(Ibid.)

Fortunately, not everyone agreed, and more and more people began to “get” the picture. By the time Oscar season rolled around, Bonnie and Clyde received an impressive ten Academy Award nominations and secured two wins. Burnett Guffey received the Oscar for Best Cinematography and Estelle Parsons won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche, Clyde’s sister-in-law. The other nominations included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supprting Actor (both Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard), Best Original Story and Screenplay, and Best Costume Design.


1967 was a banner year for films — some of the movies to which Bonnie and Clyde lost the Oscar were Coolhand Luke, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, The Graduate, and In the Heat of the Night. I said goddamn; what a year.

Modern critical reception of Bonnie and Clyde places it in the category of top films in Hollywood history, a landmark picture not only in the business and art of making movies, but also in the career of director Arthur Penn, whose death yesterday prompted this Movie Moment.



Bonnie and Clyde developed the aesthetic that marked Penn’s high-visibility period: slyly accented, harmonica-hootin’, harvest-gold-patchwork Americana; ever-poised violence; and an open invitation to apply the story as a flexible allegory for the issues of the day.

(“Anthology takes a tour of the Bonnie and Clyde director’s America.” Pinkerton, Nick. The Village Voice. 12 Nov 2008.)


Going back to my own reflections at the beginning of this entry, when I saw the film again in college (after which I regularly re-watch it now), I was able to crystallize exactly why the changes in the screenplay from how the real-life story played out so imperturbed me.

The accuracy of the facts being related is not as important as the yarn being spun, and that yarn needs to be by turns a little soft-focus with family, a little jump the crick in a jalopy while banjos play, a little sexy and simultaneously innocent, teeming with tinfoil chicken and mishaps and stolen laughs besides stolen money, in order for the juxtaposition with the sharp reality of the consequences of that story’s heroes’ actions. Not just at the end, but throughout the film there are these jarring standoffs and murders that shoot the child’s balloon of the idea of what’s happening right out of the sky and back in to the reality of what is happening — and its inevitable conclusion.


Besides that most of the changes between the real story and the script make the tale tighter and better solidify characterization, the embellishments and inflated sense of ego in the main characters and in the cinematic discourse with which we are presented are important to the overall type of story being told. The grand Depression-era myth of the infamous lovers, robbers, and murderers Bonnie and Clyde, as Beatty and Penn have conceived and shot it, is more like the story that Clyde Barrow would have told to cellmates in prison. This is Bonnie and Clyde, so far as we can tell, as they saw themselves, something like folk heroes flying by the seat of their pants, living a ruthless dream and getting real scars from it. This version is a compelling and archetypal campfire story, like the epic outlaw poem that Bonnie Parker wrote about them while they were on the road, “The Trail’s End” (later renamed “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” by the press), excerpts from which I’d like to use to end this very long — but I think justly so — entry.



They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate,
They know that the law always wins;
They’ve been shot at before,
But they do not ignore
That death is the wages of sin.



Some day they'll go down together;
They'll bury them side by side;
To few it'll be grief —
To the law a relief —
But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.

(“The Trail’s End.” Parker, Bonnie. April 1933.)

R.I.P. again to Arthur Penn, who had the courage to make this fantastic piece of cinema his way and received just due for it within his lifetime. May we all be so brave, visionary, and fortunate.

All screencaps via the wonderful screenmusings collection.

Sharon Tate’s Actual Life Awareness Month: Movie Moment, Don’t Make Waves

August 29, 2010

Turn on! Stay loose! Make out!

Don’t Make Waves (Alexander Mackendrick, 1967) was a Tony Curtis comedic vehicle in which Sharon Tate debuted in the part of Malibu, a beautiful blonde bunny who rescues a New York tourist from drowning and sucks him into the swingin’, farcical Southern California beach scene, complete with over-inflated egos, nouveau riche developers, mudslides, meditation, and Muscle Beach.


via Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur on the blogger.

The Ransohoff-produced-MGM film also stars Claudia Cardinale (Once Upon A Time In the West) as Laura Califatti, a hot-tempered and spontaneous Italian woman who is an even worse driver than this hot-tempered and spontaneous Italian woman used to be, and features genius comedian Mort Sahl (more on Mr. Sahl can be found in the recent Girls of Summer entry on his long-time wife China Lee, who also pops up in Don’t Make Waves). Also in a cameo is model-actress Joanna Barnes — she was Vicki Robinson, the gold-digging bad fiancee in the original Hayley Mills version of The Parent Trap, a role she lampooned/reprised in the Lindsay Lohan-starring 1998 remake as Vicki Robinson Blake, the gold-digging bad fiancee’s encouragingly avaricious mother; the idea being that a leopard never changes its spots, yes?


Ibid.

The cast of Don’t Make Waves was rounded out by a number of popular bodybuilders of the Venice Beach area and era, including David “The Blond Bomber” Draper, Mr. America 1965 and Mr. Universe 1966, who portrayed Ms. Tate’s character Malibu’s boyfriend, Harry Hollard.

The $4,000,000 film is based on Ira Wallach’s novel Muscle Beach. The movie can be described as a “sex and flex” gala spectacular featuring blondes, bikinis and bulging biceps. …

(Mozee, Gene. “Don’t Make Waves: Hollywood’s Greatest Muscle Movie.” Muscular Development, December 1967.)


As is Hollywood’s custom, the film pokes a little fun at the muscle world, but on the whole, the movie is quite entertaining and I am sure bodybuilders throughout the world will enjoy seeing it.

Co-starring as [Dave] Draper’s girlfriend is the very lovely Sharon Tate, one of the most beautiful girls these eyes have ever seen!

(Ibid.)

A legend in bodybuilding, Mr. Draper had a long career as a competitive weightlifter, actor, and author, and he runs a voluminous official website devoted to health, nutrition, and weightlifting.


I think of Sharon often as pictures of her during our filming of “Don’t Make Waves” adorn the walls of my gym in Santa Cruz, California. The members are mesmerized. … We first met on location in Malibu when we were advised to practice a trampoline dismount for the next film sequence, to begin promptly.

“Sharon, this is Dave. Dave, this is Sharon. Sharon, I want you to bounce on the tramp as high as you can and jump into the arms of Dave, standing right here. He’s a sturdy fellow. Good.” — The instructions of Sandy McKendrick [sic], cogent director assuming magic. We smiled, nodded, shook hands and she mounted the trampoline for the first time in her life …


Sharon and Dave filming, via sharontate.info.

… Any fear or doubts the sweet girl had turned into resolve. Sharon bounced with all her might and within five minutes was leaping through the air like a gazelle. I didn’t dare miss her. We were smiles and laughter.

First take, “Cut. That’s a wrap.” I miss her now. A star on Hollywood Boulevard bearing Sharon’s name would warm my heart. She has a special place there, indeed.

(David Draper, memorial statement on Ms. Tate’s official website supporting Sharon’s receipt of a posthumous star on the Walk of Fame.

I can’t believe it is even an issue that needs lobbied. Why would Sharon Tate not get a star? Her career may have been cut short by something that we must reasonably not want to accidentally celebrate, but look at that career — even her presence in the cult classic Valley of the Dolls, which has likely never stopped playing at least somewhere in the campy-theater-viewing world, alone should position her for a star on the Walk of Fame. Come on. They gave ones to Pat Sajak and to Rin Tin Tin. Okay? Let’s get real. It’s bizarre to me that there is even debate.


Official soundtrack — the Byrds’ sang the theme song. Ransohoff spared no expense. (Get it.)

I do hate to throw in detracting non-Sharon Tate stuff on the “Sharon’s actual life” posts because, like I said from the beginning, it pisses me off that her unique character and burgeoning career is always getting overshadowed by the doings of all the others in her life story, but I must add that two reknowned Academy-Award winning actor-director-producers, Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood, do not have stars yet either. Lassie and Tony Danza, yes. Dirty Harry and the Sundance Kid, no. Um, what? The process of selection and awarding now officially baffles me. A more complete list of strangely overlooked performers, or those who have declined or been disqualified, is here.

Back to Don’t Make Waves.

A great deal of money was spent on an all-out publicity blitz for this movie (no doubt with the urging of Ransohoff, the head of Filmways and Sharon’s personal career guru, who’d been waiting for his chance to spring her on the public), with everything from cards with stills to giant cardboard cutouts of Sharon Tate as Malibu in theaters to promote the film. There was even a tie-in with a Coppertone ad, shown above.

The amount of attention that was suddenly on Sharon and her body was not terribly to her liking. Though her later roles in Valley of the Dolls and The Wrecking Crew, as we’ve discussed this month, gave her the opportunity to show off her more robust dramatic and comedic talents, she was at this time pretty nonplussed by her box office debut as Malibu.

Among her friends, [Sharon] began to refer to herself as “sexy little me.”

(Bowers, John. “Sexy Little MeThe Saturday Evening Post, May 6, 1967.*)


Despite the lauded publicity campaign, Don’t Make Waves did not do as well in theaters at its release as its backers hoped, but it has gained in popularity with critics as time has passed.

The film has [recently] received more positive comments from reviewers, such as Leonard Maltin who describes it as “a gem”, and makes note of the “fine direction and funny performance by Sharon Tate”.

(the wiki.)


As a final note, the character of Malibu is often cited as the inspiration for the Mattel line of Malibu Barbie dolls. The doll was introduced in 1971 and I’ve so far read nothing that confirms Ms. Tate in Don’t Make Waves being Malibu Barbie’s rock-solid model as fact — but it is certainly a thing that could be true.




*Besides interviewing Ms. Tate about her upcoming film releases, the article sheds light on the early stages of her relationship with her eventual husband and portrays his interaction with her in a none-too-flattering light from the get-go: I found it insightful but very depressing and disheartening. So if you are a person who does not like to read things like that about him, don’t follow the link, or at least don’t tell me about it if you have followed it and are unhappy with what you’ve read. I did not write it. I just quoted from it.

The Girls of Summer: China Lee, Miss August 1964

June 17, 2010

Dazzle your friends with correct pronunciation! Say “China” so it rhymes with “Tina,” not the clinical term for bajango.


Photographed by Pompeo Posar.

During Spring Fever!, in the post on Gwen Wong, I mentioned Ms. Lee and promised to give her a post all her own in the future. Happy to say that the future is now.

Ms. Lee is a real trailblazer and true intellect. She was the first Asian-American Playmate of the Month. Not lovely Gwen Wong, and not PR (name removed at model’s request).

Extremely athletic, bright, witty, and outspoken, China (née Margaret) was totally busting up stereotypes well before it was chic to do so. Get it, girl!

Like past-spotlighted comic genius Laura Misch Owens, China Lee began as a Bunny in New Orleans before winding up at the original Chicago Playboy Club. Due to her winning combination of unique looks, well-above-average intelligence, and friendly, talkative nature, she quickly worked her way up to Training Bunny.


As the Playboy empire expanded and Hef opened Clubs in other cities across America, China got to travel and show new Bunnies — and club managers — the ropes all around the country.

Her teaching duties take her to a different location with every new Playboy Club opening — a job which suits her peripatetic nature to a T.

“If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be ‘active,'” China says. “I love to roam, and I love to keep busy!”

(“China Doll.” Payboy, August 1964.)


“Despite the fact that I’m always on the go, success has come to me without my seeking it. I didn’t even apply for my Bunny job — I was discovered in a New Orleans hairdresser’s shop.”

(Ibid.)

Ms. Lee was quite the jock at this time, enthusiastically describing the various sports she participated in:

High on her sports agenda is softball: Last season she pitched and won 12 games (“My windmill pitch is unhittable”), leading the New York Bunny softball team to the Broadway Show League championship.

(Ibid.)

Screeeee. What?! The NYC Club Bunnies had a softball team in a league?! And they were champions? Anyone with more info and especially pictures needs to be my hero and send it along, stat! That sounds wonderful and fun beyond anything the imagination can conjure.

Like icy-eyed Finnish novelist Kata Kärkkäinen, Miss December 1988, China Lee cheerfully reported in her interview that she traversed traditional gender/sports lines not only with that killer windmill pitch but also by handily mopping the floor with the competition at bowling.

“Miss August is also a pin-toppling bowler (she ran up a 217 at the age of 13), prize-winning equestrienne and jumper, expert swimmer and ping-pong player, as well as champion twister of all Bunnydom.

(Ibid.)

Twister like the party game or twister like “Shake it up, baby, now, etc,” with lots of cheerful shimmying around a dance floor? I’m guessing the latter. Seems more her speed!

Very little is made in the “China Doll” article of the fact that Ms. Lee was not exactly your garden variety gatefold WASP model. There is no deliberate, faux-innocent oversight of her heritage in some effort to prove super-open-mindedness, either, which I also consider a point in the magazine’s favor. A good balance is struck.


A native of New Orleans and the only member of her family of 11 not now in the Oriental restaurant line, China says: “Though I was born in America, my folks still follow Oriental ways: They speak the old language, read the old books, and follow the old customs. In this sort of environment, the men dominate and females are forced into the background. I rebelled, and I’m glad I did.”

(Ibid.)

Ms. Lee does not denigrate “Oriental”* tradition, merely comments on the aspect of that traditional environment that displeased her and from which she walked away. It’s done in a respectful and confident way. Very cool.

*When people use this word now it kind of makes my eyes itch for a second. I feel like it’s so high-handed and colonial. It’s like when people say “colored.” The original word meant no offense and is way better than a racial epithet, but we have even better ways of expressing that now, you know? It is a long-running joke with me, Paolo, and Miss D because we all lived in the Bay Area in the ’80’s when “Oriental” and “Hispanic” were leaving the vogue vocab in favor of more specific, group-elected terms. So when we see “Oriental” restaurant or “Hispanic” lawyer on a sign, we all eagerly point it out to each other the way hillbillies’ kids laugh at their grandparents for saying “Worsh.” (I can say that because I am one.)

After her Playboy appearance, Ms. Lee kept her ebullience and poise and continued to make friends and influence people. She is the dancer in the credits of Woody Allen’s first film, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, a part which she supposedly lobbied very hard for with Allen, who was a friend of hers. The film itself is a farcical redubbing of the Japanese movie International Secret Police: Key of Keys; in Allen’s version, the intrigue surrounds the case of an egg salad recipe. China performs a striptease at the end credits for Allen, who plays himself, several dubbed voices, and the projectioner screening the film.

Here is a link to the clip of her dance on the youtube.

Ms. Lee also appeared on television series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and alongside Tony Curtis and Sharon Tate in 1967’s beach movie Don’t Make Waves. The publicity campaign for Don’t Make Waves was of unprecedented size and ubiquity — though the film failed to live up to MGM’s box office expectations, the cultural impact was still very lasting.

As an example, the character Malibu, played by sunny and curvy Ms. Tate, is generally cited as the inspiration for Mattel’s world-famous “Malibu” Barbie, and several Coppertone tie-in ads for the film are still reproduced in text books for marketing classes. I will go deeper in to Don’t Make Waves in August, during Sharon Tate’s ACTUAL LIFE Awareness Month.

Ms. Lee dated Robert Plant for a while, but ultimately she settled with political comedian, activist, occasional Kennedy joke-penner, and all around cramazing dude, one of the Comedy Greats, Mort Sahl.

Sahl’s influence on aspects of comedy from modern stand-up to The Daily Show is basically immeasurable. You have probably seen Fred Armisen on SNL perform a political comedian character he created named Nicholas Fehn who is not a send-up of Sahl, himself, but rather a send-up of Sahl’s admirers who can never quite touch the master. It’s the guy with the pullover sweater and Armisen’s own glasses, an army surplus coat and a light brown longish wig, who shows up on the Weekend Update with a newspaper in his hand and tries to make jokes of the headlines but can never quite finish his sentences: this using the newspaper as a jumping-off point for humorous discourse was a trademark move of Sahl’s.

China and Mort Sahl married in 1967 and remained together until their divorce in 1991. They had a son, Mort Sahl, Jr., who passed away in 1996. R.I.P. to him and condolences to both of them. I’m glad I got to share about some really cool, interesting people in this post. I’m feeling more upbeat than I was. Thanks for coming along!

I suspect that cover is another Beth Hyatt/Pompeo Posar pairing. Note how the pose and her dress make the trademark, cocked-ear bunny silhouette, mirrored by the small logo sketched in the sand by her right hand. It’s similar, though not as racily sexy, to the rear shot one they did where her dress was open at the back and the straps snaking around her shoulders formed the ears. This time it’s her legs and kicked-off shoes. See it?

Music Moment: The Song Remains the Same — Nina Simone, “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl”

March 3, 2010

Nina covers Bessie Smith.

Nina Simone – I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl


I want a little sugar
in my bowl
I want a little sweetness
down in my soul
I could stand some lovin’
Oh so bad
I feel so funny and I feel so sad


I want a little steam
on my clothes
Maybe I can fix things up
so they’ll go
What’s the matter, Daddy,
Come on, save my soul
I need some sugar in my bowl
I ain’t foolin’
I want some sugar in my bowl


You been acting different
I’ve been told
Soothe me
I want some sugar in my bowl


I want some steam
on my clothes
Maybe I can fix things up so they’ll go
What’s the matter, Daddy,
Come on save my soul
I want some sugar in my bowl
I ain’t foolin’
I want some sugar – yeah – in my bowl.

A few weeks ago, the o.g. babydaddy treated me and the kidlet to lunch at the Soosh Gardino. He and his wife are mysteriously on the outs this month, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’ve been trying to be neutral and supportive. They’re not living together any more, though, so I’m not sure what to make of it all.

I drafted her a friendly and supportive Valentine’s card and left it at a place where I knew she had a gig that night; a few days later she wrote me thanking me but then added some surprising stuff about “needing time as newlyweds.”

This was confusing to me because I had just talked to kidlet’s father the day prior and he said in no uncertain terms that he would only take her back to avoid living with his mother … then the next day he phoned and I asked if they had patched things up and he said sort of, but not really, then the following week he said they had certainly not, and were still living apart, so like I said, I am just staying out of it. Because I truly don’t know what’s going on.

I wish there was a way for me to wave a magic wand or wish on some special star and make things perfect for both of us, but I don’t have those kinds of means at my disposal, and I have never been much of a great shakes at relationship stuff.

Apparently neither has the o.g.b.d., for which I can vouch at least during our time together lo five years ago, and also because he asked me abruptly on our way to the Gardino, “Can I ask you something? It’s bad.” He is in the habit of blurting things out so I wasn’t as surprised as I would’ve been with someone normal. I said okay and he asked me, “What happened? With your marriage?”

My stomach lurched but as my kidlet’s father and knowing he wants to support her and be able to be a sounding board for her anxieties and dreams just the same as I do, so why would I not arm him with all information possible in order for him to succeed?, I felt like he deserved a specific reply and not my usual shrug or head shake. I answered as best I could without going in to too many details, but as directly as possible because the o.g.b.d. has a lot of tics and one of them is a strong dislike of roundabout bush-beating. I’ve always thought that was a fair bugaboo and done my best to respect it. I wound down my short explanation as we pulled in to the lot of the Soosh Gardino by saying:


Woman as banquet.

“You know how it is.” (he does) “Growing up, people like us don’t plan on someone loving us, because that means letting them know us. I thought I could let someone in and it didn’t work out. For right now, I’m just not interested even at all in trusting another person, not like that. The jury is out for me on the human race.” He made a tsking sound and started to shake his head, and I held up my hand and said, “Just for now. We’ll see. But maybe I was right, all those years; maybe I am supposed to just be alone.”


Still from Pierre le fou.

I had just parked and killed the engine so I was able to look him in the eye when he suddenly grabbed my hand. He said urgently, “No. Beth — don’t say that.” This is not a story about how I got back together with the o.g.b.d., or how there is still some unwritten chapter about us. I just realized that might be inferred.

That’s not at all the way of it. You don’t know him — everything he does is spontaneous, overemotional, and urgent. He can’t even brush his teeth without doing it slightly “off” like he is coming down off of heroin or flashing his eyes around like Rudolph Valentino. He’s an intense guy, that o.g.b.d. It was one of the things that attracted me so strongly to him when we were together: he is not like other people. He’s more vibrant. Like other people are watercolor and he is painted in oils.


Rudolph Valentino smoking a cigarette with probably much greater restraint than the o.g.b.d. might — less wild gesticulation and hair pulling — but the eyes are the same.

What this story is about is this: You are pretty low when your recently-split, moving-back-in-with-his-mother, hated-you-for-years ex feels sorry for you. I thought, “Wow. Maybe we are moving in to a new phase of our lives where he will be a good friend and confidante to me. That would be pretty unexpected and neat!”

After lunch, we went to a park and it turned out he’d been drinking sub rosa from a fifth of whiskey all day. I was kind of bummed that I’d thought we’d been doing so well and it might have not really been heartfelt on his half. Quelle surprise, I guess. I will never learn, it seems. I don’t want to sound pathetic, I just felt pretty stupid for thinking someone gave a crap about me.

I found this out when he took a hit out of the bottle in his pocket. In front of a bunch of kids. I said, “Um, no thanks, dude.” He said, “Oh, I know. I wasn’t offering. You’re driving.” He had me there: I was indeed driving. And it was a visit we were both in charge of. And he’d literally split from his wife the day before. And the day before happened to be Valentine’s. So I’m not going to judge or flip out unless it happens again. “Everybody gets one,” right, Spider-man on Family Guy?

The point is: Yep. Probably meant to be alone. At least for a good long while.

It’s lonely to want some sugar in the bowl, sure, but the trouble is it’s tough to tell the sugar from the rat poison. Better safe than sorry.

Valentine Vixen – Kim Farber, Miss February 1967

February 25, 2010

Besides being possessed of arrestingly modern looks (it is truly startling how easily this photoshoot could have been done in the cheap-and-chic, Ikea-styled apartment of some sweet young hipster last weekend), Kim Farber is also unique in the pantheon of vintage playmates because she worked nights as a “Theater Bunny” at the Chicago Playboy Theater before being selected as Playboy‘s Miss February 1967. To my mind, that gives her a very special position in the empire’s history.


Photographed by Stan Molinowski.

Playboy opened the sadly short-lived Playboy Theaters — notable for screening not exclusively the racier content you might expect, but also rare classics, indie flicks, and films that had been met with censorship in their attempts at playing nice with other distribution channels — in only a scant, lucky few cities.

So far I have only chased down for sure the origins and present doings of the sites in Chicago (more on that in a sec) and New York, where the theater was in Manhattan on W. 57th street.

I had a false lead in Corpus Christi, TX, but I went ahead and called and, believe it or not, one of the town’s own officially sanctioned websites has mislabeled the Harbor Playhouse Theater as the Harbor Playboy Theater: the venue is not now and has never been a Playboy Enterprises property. Simple typo which the city of Corpus Christi has yet to notice or rectify, but it gave the guy I asked about it earlier this afternoon a good laugh.

I ironed out the discrepancy (a google search turned up the town’s link to the theater under the name “Playboy” but yellow pages and all other sources called it “Playhouse;” I couldn’t let mysterious sleeping dogs lie!) by straight-up calling the theater and asking them myself. As I said, the guy I spoke to laughed heartily and said no way. I didn’t bother explaining that there were, at one time, Playboy Theaters, as the difference between cinema and stage work sometimes makes people whose life passion is working for actual factual live theaters a little uppity and superior about plays vs. movies, plus, why interrupt the flow of happy karma? I laughed too and thanked him for his time.

That’s not the only telephone digging I’ve done this week, actually. Several days ago, I also called San Diego Rattan to ask if there was any chance they were ever known as “House of Rattan,” the shop run by the mother of Miss February 1969, Lorrie Menconi (answer: again, no). The very confused woman on the other end of the telephone assured me the store had only been called “San Diego Rattan” throughout its history.

I then asked in as friendly and “sane” a way as possible if she had any idea what had ever happened to the House of Rattan (she did not, as she moved to San Diego from Redondo Beach in 1999 and had never heard of House of Rattan).

I said my Girl Scout leader grew up in Redondo Beach, and her daughter (my dear Sarah-fina) was born in Torrance; plus, a sorority sister from college was from nearby Rancho P.V., so we talked briefly about Redondo, the merits of Rancho Palos Verdes vs. Palos Verdes Heights — or “PVH,” as the cognoscenti call it — and how Girl Scouts used to have so many more badges for water sports. (Not the sex-and-urine, super-kinky kind, but rather the kayak-and-diving, woman-against-the-sea kind). She was mainly very confused and almost concerned, it seemed at the start of the conversation, about my rattan line of questioning, so I felt like I needed to regain emotional lost ground with friendly, “aren’t-I-so-normal,” bantery small talk.

She was not annoyed — she was very friendly and even apologetic for having no answers to my left-field queries — but I am pretty sure she thought I had some extra-special Things Going On upstairs. I did not drop the magazine’s name at any point in the discussion, keeping the conversation on a strictly wicker-outdoor-furniture, geographical-social-casting, and oh-these-Girl-Scout-times-they-are-a-changin’ basis, so maybe rabid rattan fans are a Thing and she was initially afraid she had one of them on the phone. I’ll never know!


It is part of human nature, observed an 18th Century British writer, that great discoveries are made accidentally. (“Ticket to Success.” Playboy, February 1967.)

Though many people have made remarks along similar lines, my guess is that the uncredited author of Ms. Farber’s write-up is probably referring to the Reverend Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832).

Rev. Colton more specifically said, “It is a mortifying truth, and ought to teach the wisest of us humility, that many of the most valuable discoveries have been the result of chance, rather than of contemplation, and of accident, rather than of design.” (Many Things in Few Words: Addressed to Those Who Think. Colton, Rev. C.C. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green. (p. 39). via that there ol’ google books. take it for a public domain spin!)


Proof of this maxim is our valentine Playmate, Kim Farber, who was steadfastly taking tickets at Chicago’s Playboy Theater when she was pointed toward a gatefold appearance by a Playboy staffer who had gone to the theater and discovered that its prime attraction was not on the screen. Kim gratefully consented to pose for Playmate test shot. “Of course, I’d always wanted to be a Playmate, but once I got settled in my Theater Bunny routine, I never thought I’d get closer.” (Ibid.)


When she finally returns Stateside, Miss February hopes to pick up the thread of an apprenticeship in fashion coordination and design (“If I had my way, I’d drape the whole world in bright orange”), which she interrupted to become a Playboy Theater Bunny. “Before I commit myself to a career,” the dark-haired beauty explains, “I want to get some traveling out of my system.” (Ibid.)

I’ve got sadly no idea where the sweet and doe-eyed young gamine’s travels took her, in the end — Ms. Farber has either changed her name or vanished off the face of the earth, because if you have learned nothing else from my ramblings I hope you at least agree that I’m pretty all right with that there ol’ research — but I can happily tell you both the backstory of its inception and the denouement of what eventually happened to the Chicago Playboy Theatre. It’s an involved but very interesting story. Go potty now and smoke if you got ’em, cause here we go!

The Playboy Theater in Chicago was located at 1204 N. Dearborn Street. It began its life as the Dearborn Theatre in 1913. It was remodeled two decades later in 1934 by William and Percival Pereira. William, who ascribed the sterile and stark look of his architecture to his interest in science fiction, would go on to design the distinctive pyramid-shaped Transamerica Building in San Francisco, one of the most recognizable — and, next to the Lucy Coit tower, my personal favorite — features of The City’s skyscape.

The theater was sold, expanded, and given a much-needed facelift, when it re-opened as the Surf Theater in the 1940s. The new cinema boasted a seating capacity of 650. It remained the Surf Theater until September of 1964.


This is my favorite shot of the spread.

The Chicago Playboy Theater opened its doors at the end of September, 1964. Chicago was the home of Hef’s fledgling empire, and, in its heyday, was bustling with bunnies. There were Playboy clubs, hotels, restaurants, and the Theater, all along the famous Loop.

Besides being known for the unusual films it screened, the Playboy Theater was one of the hosting venues in the early years of the Chicago International Film Festival.

The theater changed hands in 1976, a year after Hugh himself blew irretrievably once and for all out of the Windy City in the wake of the dissolution of his long relationship with Barbi Benton. It was renamed the Chelex, and famed Chicago Sun critic Gene Siskel once wrote a scathing review of a film he saw screened there, concluding that the venue itself was so distracting that it made the film even worse; he said he sat near the back and had to keep his coat, hat, and even his gloves on during the movie because it was so goddamned cold.


This is another really, really good shot in my book.

The theater then changed hands again in 1979, and was renamed the Sandburg Theater, after Chicago native son and poet Carl Sandburg (“came in like the tide on little cat feet,” you know, that guy?). A well-regarded arthouse cinema-spot, as you might guess from the lofty name, the Sandburg mainly screened repertory and indie films.


My partner Albert Berger and I re-opened the Sandburg Theatre as a repertory house showing double features of classic films on May 22, 1979. Our opening week was a festival of Alfred Hitchcock movies. Although home video was starting to appear back then, most of these films could not be seen at that time except on television. We leased the theatre from famous Chicago real estate mogul Arthur Rubloff, who had developed much of the Magnificent Mile among other properties. (Bill Horberg. March 8, 2008. Internet post retrieved February 25, 2010.)


The theatre was shuttered when we took it over and in very poor shape. It still had the bunny logo design carpeting from the days when it operated as The Playboy, and a marquee with disco style lighting. (Ibid.)

When the tenure of the ambitious and admirable Misters Horberg and Berger came to a close in 1982, the theater was sold, condemned, and demolished. A Walgreens (another longtime and homegrown Chicago tradition) now stands on the spot.


I do believe that is Ms. Farber to Hef’s right, viewer’s left. Yes?

It was the 1,000th Walgreens to be opened and there was quite the to-do of it at a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony held at 9:00 a.m. on September 6, 1984, presided over by James Thompson, the governor of Illinois at the time. Interestingly, the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony was Cary Grant, whose own movies had often been screened in the Old Dearborn and Surf Theatre days of the 1930’s-40’s.

Grant graciously agreed to be present and speak because he was a family friend of the Walgreens (the article where I read this factoid lists his connection as being to “Betty,” but I think they meant Mary Ann, as no Betty as ever been an heiress or married to an heir of the Walgreens chain). Like Mr. Grant, Mary Ann Walgreen (née Leslie) has since passed away. She was very active in Chicago-area charities well before the time of highly visible CEOs and public relations folderol, which means she had no obligation to be so involved, and did it out of the goodness of her own heart. R.I.P. to them both.

Final fun fact: Before it closed its doors in 1976, the Chicago Playboy theater’s final booking was a double feature of Mel Brooks’ The Producers and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (“Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?”) Sounds to me like an excellent way to close the place down — if they were licensed for beer, to boot, then I need to get on time traveling, stat. That’s all for tonight, and I sure hope you’ve enjoyed this lengthy foray into the Playboy past.

Daily Batman: Nico ‘n’ Andy edition

December 5, 2009

Knock, knock, knocking at your chamber door.

Special fat-bat-thanks to Panda Eraser for finding these and passing them on.

NSFW November: Kaya Christian, Miss November 1967

November 27, 2009

Kaya Christian, Miss November 1967, was previously a diving and backstroke champ, then a water ballerina, and finally was certified as a SCUBA instructor just before this issue of Playboy went to print. I guess what I’m saying is, she’s in to watersports.


Photographed by Bill Figge and Ed DeLong

You know what I’ve noticed? It seems like the more vintage the playmate, the more the chance you will find a few butt shots. I don’t just mean shots where there is a naked hind end in the picture, I mean ones where the whole composition is framed around it; where it is solely the focal point, like you don’t even see boobs or anything else, practically.

It just seems like if a playmate is from the mid-60’s to late 70’s, you are practically guaranteed at least one photograph of the model looking over her shoulder or in profile with her ass aimed at the camera. Playboy has really went the boob-focused route since the 80’s and 90’s, all the way to the early 2000’s, and it seems it has been done at the price of the derriere. Sometimes the back side can be the best side, guys. It is now retro to have just-buns-pics in nudie spreads. Write that down.

A California native who spent her childhood in Georgia, Kaya enjoyed painting and music (so far, so good), late nights/early mornings (still solid), and listed as her idea of a good meal “shellfish and milkshakes.” Screeeee. What the unholy fuck?! Get out of the car, Ms. Christian. You’re walking. That’s easily the grossest thing I’ve heard all week, and most of my countrymen cooked a bird carcass in the last two days (the nasty phrases and descriptions that get bandied about when the subject is poultry roasting truly revolt me).

One of her turn-offs was “draft-card burners.” Oh, my. Sounds like the little swimming, naked girl has her some political opinions, enough so to list that in Playboy. Why don’t you go hoark down a bucket of oysters and a strawberry shake, sister, and save the sanctimonious shit for a rag that ain’t built on skin? Nobody cares if you uphold traditional family values (not to mention that the issue of the appropriateness of a draft for the Vietnam War was never, ever, except in the cheapest of rhetoric, about patriotism and being a good or a bad person).

This is what I was trying to point out in the last post, when I talked about Donna Edmondson and what she went through after admitting to being a virgin. The whole socio-religious-politics and porn thing just don’t mix. They don’t have to. I just think that if you try, you’re missing the point. It’s Playboy, honey. It’s not a pageant.


This is an example of a legit super-clever cover. See how her hips and ass form the bunny’s head and the straps that snake around the open back make his ears? Very nicely done. Another Beth Hyatt/Pompeo Posar pairing.

Weirdly, they talk about her work as

…laboring in the catacombish darkness of one of the West Coast’s largest photo-processing labs.

Thoughts on that? She talks about going to Catalina, so she’s in So-Cal. What’s down in the LA area in the way of Kodak-Eastman, etc? Because I could not at all place that reference.