Posts Tagged ‘Literashit’

Retread — Burroughs Month: Thanksgiving Prayer

November 24, 2011


“To John Dillinger and hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day. November 28, 1986.”

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shat out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.


Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.


Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin’ lawmen,
feelin’ their notches.


For decent church-goin’ women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for “Kill a Queer for
Christ” stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.


Thanks for a country where
nobody’s allowed to mind their
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories — all right let’s see
your arms!


You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

I do not believe it is as hopeless as all that. This year, I am incredibly thankful to be alive at all, let alone to live where I do with the people I love. I understand Mr. Burroughs’ criticisms, I just think that we must keep caring and trying to win out against the sense of defeat and cynicism, and maybe then the dream can still be saved. I don’t believe people are inherently bad; I believe the opposite, and I won’t get discouraged and filled with bitterness toward all of humanity just because of the publicized exploits and outrages of the bad apples in our barrel. I believe that for each one of the headlines that sends people in to despair over the state of the world, there are a thousand unreported little kindnesses and gestures of love and connection.

And world peace. I know. I get cheesey. I’m just feeling very happy and free and alive.




Almost all photos via Square America.







This post originally appeared on November 26, 2010.

Flashback Friday: Just Another Auden October, Harrow the house of the dead edition

October 21, 2011

This post originally appeared on at October 27, 2010 at 8:45 a.m.


Photographed by Mieke Willems.

Prohibit sharply the rehearsed response
And gradually correct the coward’s stance. …
Harrow the house of the dead; look shining at
New styles of architecture, a change of heart.

(W.H. Auden, “Petition.”)

Like that bird, for instance — do you think he woke up knowing he’d get to perch on a pert ass today? I expect not: I expect he thought it would be just another day, the same as all the others he has lived.

I guess what I’m suggesting is that, as Auden petitions, it is worthwhile to defy the lessons of experience, throw caution to the wind, and look with a hopeful heart for the unexpected and unpredictable new. How to completely go about doing that I am less certain of, but I know that it must be worth trying.

Take-two Tuesday: William Blake Month — “The Fly”

October 4, 2011

This entry originally appeared on June 22, 2010 at 1:44pm.

Late post, am I right? I’ve been invovled in some deep bookfoolery which I will explain below. The heading of each of the chapters in a book I read last night/today is followed by a quote, and one such quote was from this poem of Blake’s.


via

Little Fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?


For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;


via

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

(William Blake, “The Fly.”)

So — the lateness in the day. Yes. Sorry, but I am not even firing on four let alone six cyllinders today. See, I went against all my usual instincts and quickly finished my yearly series last night wayyy ahead of time and I refuse to let that happen with my other obligations, so when I dropped the last in the series to the floor, I dug in to my pile and instead of snatching up The Tommyknockers (absolutely not touching it until July 2nd or 3rd or I will not be where I need to be for the 4th and I cannot afford any more Bad Days), I started this book my cousin Mary loaned me called The Descent.

I was initially skeptical and, at points, flirting with grogginess from the overabundance of sleep-inducing substances I pour down my throat every night in an effort to quiet the seven-headed rock dragon of my insomnia which makes the Balrog look like a Pound Puppy, but it was amazing shit, full of caves and sci-fi creatures and anthropology and linguistics and religious themes and Hell and mountaineers and Jesuits and everything else that rings my bell, and before I knew it I was completely sucked in to the throat of it. I powered through the layers of tylenol pm, Miller, and a slug of Ny-Quil I’d taken earlier, ignoring my sandy eyelids because I Couldn’t Stop Reading, and, having finally shook off any need for sleep and finished the last sentence and closed the book thoughtfully at around nine this morning, I can confidently say I’m a believer.


via

I slid it under my bed and lay reflecting on what I’d read for a few minutes, because I felt like there had been some unresolved plot points, then I suddenly did this herky jerky twitch and thought, “How many standalone science fiction novels are that long? Plus … it was set in ’99, but the cover was new. No dog-eared pages. Mary would’ve loaned it to me years ago if she hadn’t just recently bought and read it. It’s a new book.” Reprint. Why?


via

Totally excited by this chain of thought, I flipped my ass in the air, dove under my bed and grabbed the book back out of my piles and checked the front. HELL YES: among the author’s other books listed by the publisher is one titled The Ascent, which I think it is fair to conjecture can only be a sequel, so now that I’ve finished all the housework and cooking I’d planned previously to do in the hours of the morning I’d spent reading, I’m going to cruise out to the used book store by my house and see about scaring that bitch up for tonight — and see if there are more. Keep you posted. Don’t worry about the insomnia thing: I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead.

Fight Club Friday — Daily Batman: Punching toupees off edition

July 22, 2011

Friday night’s all right for fighting.


Another from when Batman gets clocked and thinks Bruce Wayne is his secret crimefighting identity.

…And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight.

Bruce Wayne knocked that guy’s toupee off.

Take Two Tuesday — Per mi amico: Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day, “Happy birthdohs, Jonohs” edition with brief bookfoolery

July 19, 2011

This post originally appeared on July 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm. Congratulations on another trip around the sun to you, my good true friend, and I hope you have many more to come.

Happy birthday to the one and only Jonohs Danger Welchos!


Nolite te bastardes carborundum.

This encouragement is doubtless unnecessary because I doubt that you ever would. I’m sure you would talk the bastardes around to your point of view and you’d all have Fin du Monde and play Beatles Rock Band and they would vow never to carborundum again. I’m finishing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter shortly and I’ll be starting next on my yearly Atwood. How nice to know this year when I re-read it that you will have just done so recently too. Last year I knew you, and was re-reading Handmaid’s Tale as always, and you had not read it yet. This time it will be different and I’ll know that I’m reading words that yet another of my friends has also enjoyed. See the interstitial power of the shared unconscious experience of reading? That’s impressive shit. If that is not impressive enough, I will buy you some sushi the next time we are both in town. But really, dude — the gift of reading. Come on. Be excellent.

But just in case you ever do feel down, remember that you are an awesome friendoh and I’m so glad to have gotten to be friends, and that I know great things are going to happen for you like in a perpetual motion engine powered by amazing karma for all your kindnesses and good humor to others.

And, of course, be prepared for whatever befalls you on this, the day of your birth —


A very recent addition to the pantheon of inside jokes via uglyxdutchling on the tumblr.

Hope you’re off work and having a great birthday, Mr. Welchos! But do try and hold it together.

I will be thinking of you!

Take-two Tuesday — The Way They Were: Egon and Wally

July 5, 2011

This entry was originally posted March 1, 2010 at 11:50 am.

Yesterday I was reminded that I had a bunch of these “Way They Were” entries planned and had only followed through on one (Jayne and Mickey). That’s cowardly. I’m going to try to motor through more in the coming months.


“Sitzende Frau mit hochgezogenem Knie”/”Seated woman with bent knee”, 1917.

Although artist Egon Schiele had been separated from Valerie “Wally” Neuzil and married to Edith Harms for two years by the date of this painting, most everyone agrees this is from an earlier study of Wally. It looks too much like her not to be, and he uses the colors that are associated with the Wally work. It’s my favorite work by him. It was on the cover of the Schiele book that my husband, who is a painter, had at our house in Portland, and was the entire reason I found myself opening and reading the book one day. I was interested in Schiele’s work, which is provocative and weird and has many shockingly modern features, all things I like, but, because his life was tragically cut short by disease, his career arc is brief. Coming away from the slim book about his life and art, I felt that his work was dominated by the chief feature of his life, which is to say in a nutshell his time with the real love of his life, which he royally fucked up, and it was the story of that, of Egon’s eventually jacked-beyond-repair relationship with Wally Neuzil that really sucked me in.


“Das Modell Wally Neuzil”/”The model Wally Neuzil.” 1912.

Artist Egon Schiele and his model, Valerie “Wally” Neuzil, were together from 1911 to 1915. He met her in Vienna when she was seventeen and he was twenty-one. Supposedly they were introduced by Gustav Klimt. Supposedly she had been Klimt’s mistress before she got together with Schiele. These things are all conjecture because everyone involved is dead, and they happened before the Great War, which so influenced the German-speaking art world in the years just following it that anything which contributed to or influenced an artist’s work before the War kind of fell by the wayside until later generations resumed their scholarship of turn of the century artists. That’s fair. Such radical changes happened during and after the War that I imagine it seemed crazy, outdated, and irrelevant to really consider too deeply the little emotional outbursts and criminal trials that came before the dramatic political events of the 1910’s and 20’s that literally reshaped the landscape.


“Rothaarige hockende Frau mit grünen Strümpfen (Valerie Neuzil)”/”Crouching figure with green stockings” (Valerie Neuzil).” 1913.

Egon and Wally left Vienna because they considered it too oppressive. They sought an inspirational, romantic, and bucolic lifestyle of freedom in the countryside, moving to Krumia — which also had the more practical benefit of much cheaper rent than Vienna — where, though Schiele’s mother was born there, they were summarily run out of town not too long after for being a little too inspirational, romantic, and bucolic: they’d been using the town’s teenagers as “models”. There’s a Schiele museum there now, so I guess that, like cream cheese, their hearts eventually softened to a spreadable cracker topping. That analogy got out of control in a hurry. It’s almost time for me to grab lunch, sorry.


“Wally in roter Blouse mit erhobenen Knien”/”Wally in red blouse with raised knees.” 1913.

Essentially fleeing the angry mob in Krumia, Egon and Wally moved again, this time north to Nuelengbach, where it was apparently same shit, different day, as they were not there even six months and Schiele was arrested for seducing a minor. Once in custody, they dropped that charge (apparently the young lady changed her tune when the absinthe wore off?) and an abduction charge the parents had insisted be levied originally, and instead tried and found him guilty of displaying inappropriate art in a place where minors could see it. He was released from prison after serving twenty-four days in April 1912 — are you getting the idea of what an awesome prince he was? such the lucky girl, that Wally — and they moved back to the Vienna area.


“Auf einem blauen Polster Liegende mit goldblondem Haar (Wally Neuzil)”/”Reclining female figure with gold blonde hair on a blue pillow (Wally Neuzil).” 1913.

Settled with Wally in Heitzing, a Viennese suburb, Schiele wrote to a friend in early 1915 that he was going to marry one of the Harms sisters, two locksmith’s daughters named Edith and Adele who lived across the street from his studio, for money. I guess running around for three years painting erotic pictures and pissing people off while sleeping with teenagers and doing jail time had not turned out to be the lucrative life of luxury he’d anticipated; the cash flow was getting low, and, despite that he considered Wally his partner and soulmate, marrying for money was Schiele’s timeless solution to their financial woes. He followed through on this, marrying the older of the daughters, Edith, on June 17, 1915, exactly 91 years before my own wedding day.


“Frau in Unterwäsche und Strümpfen (Valerie Neuzil)”/”Woman in underwear and stockings (Valerie Neuzil).” 1913.

A few days after his wedding, Schiele was called to the war, but managed to always serve in Austria, so he was able to continue with his art and stay close to his ties in Vienna. Wally had broken up with him when he told her he was getting married. Schiele wrote to friends expressing shock and grief: he’d actually expected her to understand and stay with him. He wrote a letter to Wally asking her to meet him at a billiards parlor that he liked to go to. There he gave her another letter, proposing that every year they go on an extended holiday, without his wife. She did not write back or respond positively to this. Instead, she left him and never saw him again.


“Frau mit schwarzen Strümpfen – Valerie Neuzil”/”Woman with black stockings – Valerie Neuzel.” 1913.

I was furious when I read this. I still remember sitting in my little house in Portland and my jaw dropping, and my blood boiling, all this anger and resentment simmering in me, directed at people I never met who’d been dead nearly a century, but I couldn’t help it. I hate him for marrying someone else, I hate him and I hate the story of how they were because it reveals that through all that time they spent together, Schiele must have considered Wally lower than him, and though she stood by him , asshole though he could be, he thought her to be the unimportant one, expendable and suppressable, and he literally threw her away like garbage even though she was the best thing that had happened to him; his drawings of her are the best things he did. But that is how some stories are, and I deserve to feel angry because I need to accept that, I have to work through my sadness about the fact that nothing and no one has ever been perfect not even for a day or an hour or a moment, every joyful thing is secretly riddled through with the knowledge that this is so good now because there will be pain later and every lucky penny has a tail side of the coin, and if I have to search my soul and see if there is any gold in the dross of this love story that I in my infantile understanding of human nature found so devastating than I guess I must say that I do love that Schiele really loved Wally in an incredibly broken way, and had that time with her in which there must surely have been good moments.


Photograph of Wally and Egon from the Schiele Museum online.

Schiele died only three years after his breakup with Wally, on Halloween 1918, in an influenza epidemic which had several days earlier killed Edith and their unborn child. He passed away completely unaware that Wally Neuzil had herself succumbed to death from disease around Christmas of the previous year. She’d become a nurse for the Red Cross and, stationed at Split in Dalmatia, she caught scarlet fever from one of her patients and died in the same hospital at which she’d been working for over a year.

edit 7/6/11. Question for discussion: on a large enough timeline, aren’t we and all our petty passions and tragedies truly sound and fury, don’t we signify nothing after all? I want to think not — likely only because of vanity and childish fear of my own meaninglessness — but it seems so true.

Girls of Summer: Susan Denberg, Miss August 1966

June 26, 2011


Photographed by super amaze-balls Peter Gowland!

Miss August 1966 was the lovely and talented Susan Denberg, a cult hottie of yesteryear who is somewhat obscure today but still beloved by vintage sci-fi and Hammer horror film fans. Who do I know who is in to that stuff? It’s on the tip of my tongue …

Oh, right. Me. Let’s do this!

Ms. Denberg was born Dietlinde Zechner in Bad Polzin, Germany on August 2, 1944, nine months and seven days before V-E Day, when the Allied forces accepted the Germans’ surrender on May 8 (an inauspicious date in my book if you remember my apocalyptic ramblings).

I’m saying it was probably not the best of times to be born in Germany, what with how the country was going to be totally defeated and carved up in, like, a year. The Zechner clan beat feet to Austria (…better?), where Ms. Denberg grew up working in her parents’ appliance stores in Klagenfurt.

In her Playboy write-up, she is cited as being “born and bred” in Klagenfurt. The discrepancy could be due to a misunderstanding or wanting to downplay her German heritage for some unguessed-at reason. I think most likely she was Austrian to begin with and moved to Klagenfurt so young that it was not a big deal.


Suspect is wigless, I repeat, wigless.

Susan Denberg, our striking Miss August, joins a long and lovely line of Playmates whose centerfold appearances have preceded their cinematic debuts — a comely clan that includes such gatefold delights as Jayne Mansfield (February 1955), Stella Stevens (January 1960), Donna Michelle (December 1963), Jo Collins (December 1964) and Sue Williams (April 1965).

(“Picture Playmate.” Playboy, August 1966.)


Susan, a honey of a blonde, will make her filmic bow this fall in the celluloid version of Norman Mailer’s recent best-selling novel An American Dream.

No. Not a best-selling novel. Considered the least of Mailer’s fiction works, actually. A misogynistic bundle of bullshit — and that’s coming from me. So I’m not just whistling “Dixie.”

An American Dream is a 1966 movie based on a 1965 novel based on a series of installments in Esquire about a man and the women he kills and screws before he slouches off in to the sunset, perhaps to mine the meaning of existence, perhaps to die of an overdose of modern society. Its one mercy is that it is short. I may be oversimplifying to avoid talking about it more. Sorry.

An American Dream is a Mailer-adapted picture, sadly too crappily, or perhaps too quickly, executed to be called camp, about Stephen Rojack, a former war hero – turned also-run politician – turned call-in talk show host who murders his rich-bitch wife and basically goes on a postmodern movie-length bender with Janet Leigh (story as old as time — we’ve all been there). He spends the film in a pingballing search for the meaning of existence via sex, drugs, murder-rap evasion and jazz, pissing off underworld gangsters along the way. The story does not so much end as “halt” in what amounts to a lot of, to quote a deservedly better praised writer, sound and fury, signifying nothing. Mailer’s original source material has marginally greater depth — but only marginally.

Ms. Denberg plays Ruta, the luckless harpy Mrs. Rojack’s German maid. In his March 14, 1965 New York Times review of the book, Conrad Knickerbocker said of Ruta’s character that she “must have attended charm school with Ilse Koch.” For those who don’t know, Ilse Koch is the “Red Witch of Buchenwald,” an infamously horrible Nazi war criminal on whom Ilse, She-Wolf of the SS is super-obviously based (except Koch was not hot — and she has spent way longer burning in hell).

Koch was a fat, genuinely evil brunette who tortured and murdered interred Jews for pleasure at one of the most horrible concentration camps the earth has ever known. Ruta is a slightly mercenary, lithe blonde sexpot who is willing to screw her boss’s husband if it will get her ahead. Absolutely nothing in book or film merits Knickerbocker’s sensationalist comparison, other than both women being German. Disgusting and not at all funny, if that was the attempt. Bleah.

But then what do I expect from a rave review of a randomly constructed crock of self-indulgent shit? Knickerbocker praised the book as a modern masterpiece and said people who didn’t like An American Dream wouldn’t like it because they wouldn’t want to admit that it speaks to the true soul of America and what-have-you. All like, J’accuse, bourgeois pigs! You don’t like it because you’re judging it, and you’re judging it because you don’t understand it, and you don’t understand it because you’re afraid to.

Cool story, bro.

Yeah, there’s always been a lot of so-called values getting touted around that are hypocritical at best and hollow, tarnished, destructive compulsions at worst. But that’s not my soul, and it’s not the soul of most people I know. Most people weren’t and aren’t rich, disaffected, murdering alcoholics — most people were and are just trying to hold a job, find some love, and eat dinner. Like, Jesus. What a hopeless and lackwitted thing to assert. Not to mention, if you do want a story about rotting American dreams and rich, murdering, alcoholics, why don’t you just pick up a little timeless piece of exponentially greater writing called The Great Gatsby?

In the book, Rojack sleeps with Ruta after killing Deborah, then pretends to discover Deborah’s body and tells Ruta she must have committed suicide. In the film, Ruta tries to seduce Rojack after his initial fight with Deborah, but he doesn’t go for it. Then he returns to the bedroom to fight with Deborah again, which is the fight that results in her death.

I assume the change in “he-did,” “he-didn’t,” with Ruta from novel to film is an effort to make Rojack’s character seem more sympathetic in the movie, in much the same way that making Cherry (Leigh’s character) in the film be Rojack’s fallen-on-bad-times childhood sweetheart from before he “made it” — versus her role in the source material as a trashy torch singer that he just meets that night — is supposed to make Rojack’s affair with her, begun the day after he murders his wife, more reasonable. There is also the little matter of Rojack allowing his wife to slip from the balcony of her own drunken accord, falling to her death only to then be further run over by a mafioso’s limo in the movie, rather than Rojack strangling her and throwing her body over the railing himself, the corpse falling to the street only to then be further run over by an et cetera’s et cetera, in the book.

Ugh. I spent forever talking about a thing I don’t like. I guess spite is as strong a writing motivator as enthusiasm. So let’s get back to enthusiasm. Fun fact follows.



For a while … it appeared as though Susan might not be Susan at all by the time [An American Dream’s] release date rolled around. As part of a nationwide contest to find a nom de cinéma for its latest ascending starlet, Warner Bros. offered a $500 award for the winning entry and received 5,000 name suggestions from cinemaphiles throughout both hemispheres before wisely deciding to leave Susan — name and all — exactly as they’d found her.

“Some of the names submitted were pretty far out,” recalls Susan. “But the funniest entry of them all was Norma Mailer.”

(Ibid.)

She just doesn’t look like a Norma.

The main thing of it is, on the set for An American Dream, Ms. Denberg worked with Star Trek‘s George Takei (Sulu), Warren Stevens (Rojan, “By Any Other Name”), and Richard Derr (Commodore Barstow, “The Alternative Command” and Admiral Fitzgerald, “The Mark of Gideon”). Plus An American Dream’s director, Robert Gist, was involved as a director for TOS.

Ms. Denberg subsequently appeared on the then-fledgling sci-fi series Star Trek as Magda Kovacs, one of the three mail-order bride hopefuls voyaging to Ophiucus III with honey-tongued con man and Venus drug purveyor Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd (Star Trek: TOS. “Mudd’s Women.” Season One, Episode 3. Originally aired October 13, 1966.).

On their way to Ophiucus III and being tailed by Kirk and co., petty criminal Mudd pushes his little class J ship too hard and breaks down in the middle of an asteroid belt. The pursuing Enterprise has their own shields up and throws them hastily over Mudd’s ship as well, but three of their lithium crystals are destroyed by this shield extension. Scotty beams Mudd and his passengers aboard the Enterprise just as the ship is struck by an asteroid and obliterated.


Eve McHuron (Karen Steele), Ruth Bonaventure (Maggie Thrett), and Magda Kovacs (Ms. Denberg).

The Enterprise plots a course to mining planet Rigel XII to replace the lithium crystals. It is revealed that the alluring women are being made more beautiful by the illegal Venus drug, which Mudd doesn’t want Kirk to find out. Mudd further wants to screw over Kirk and get back to peddling wives on Ophiucus III so of course the logical solution is for hot chicks to seduce Kirk; first Magda and then Eve. (Neither bid succeeds in the final aim but he gets flirty action in the short run.)


Magda without the apparently beauty-enhancing Venus drug. Rough.

Long story short, Magda and Ruth marry miners from Rigel XII over subspace radio (and you thought internet hookups were risky), who are concerned when it turns out they’ve been fleeced by a con man and druggies, and Eve marries their boss, Ben Childress. It is also discovered that the Venus drug’s efficacy lies completely in the mind of its imbiber: the ladies appeared more beautiful because of their confidence in the drug and not any transformative elements of its composition, which is a good thing because the scenes of them not under the influence made them look pretty deliberately rough. Also, the miners don’t negate the marriage as a fraud when they find out the chicks are hot again, plus they like companionship or whatever. Still waters run so deep.

Ms. Denberg next appeared in the 1967 Hammer horror film Frankenstein Created Woman, alongside perennial Hammer favorite Peter Cushing. The film is lucky number four in the production company’s Frankenstein series.

Frankenstein Created Woman finds Baron Frankenstein (Cushing) awakened from a sort of cryogenic sleep by companion Dr. Hertz and his lab assistant Hans, the latter of whom is shortly executed by guillotine for murdering an innkeeeper following an altercation with local toughs.

Distraught over his gruesome death, Hans’s disfigured and paralyzed ladyfriend Christina (Ms. Denberg), whose father Hans was wrongly convicted of killing, kills herself.

Baron Frankenstein resurrects Christina’s body in the same way he was resurrected by Hertz and Hans, but gives her Hans’ soul and not her own. See, Frankenstein has become concerned with the question of whether the soul leaves the body at the moment of death, and if not can it be separated from a body, and if so can it be preserved and transferred to a different body after being divorced from its original corpse, and what would the consequence be for consciousness, and all sorts of similar metaphysical things pondered over as only Frankenstein would do. (The guy is simply a maniac for severing and swapping stuff around. You cannot stop him.) You get the gist.

The resurrected soul of Hans in Christina’s body results in a confused consciousness, driven by compulsions of revenge against Christina’s father’s actual killers (the three local toughs with whom Hans had fought earlier on the evening of Christina’s father’s death), for Christina’s part to avenge her father and for Hans’ to avenge himself. This is of course inexplicable behavior to the good doctors because the actions are based on information only Hans and Christina technically know, but which Dr.s Frankenstein and Hertz could have easily found out if they weren’t constantly playing God.

The struggle of living with an infant consciousness and two memories of bad shit and all the rest, and probably also Dr. Hertz’s cooking, drives Christina to kill herself again — but not before all three of the men who beat her father to death and pinned it on her lover have been murdered in return. The End.

It’s one of the most critically acclaimed Frankenstein Hammer movies because of the concern with metaphysics and the fairytale-like revenge structure, or so says the wiki. Later this week I’ll show you one of my most critically acclaimed Hammer flicks. It has nothing to do with Frankenstein, I’m afraid.

Ms. Denberg was the victim of a very weird rumor circuit beginning in the 1970’s. It was said for, like, two decades that the excesses of the Hollywood life were too much for Susan and that she either a) moved back to Klagenfurt with her parents but then killed herself, or b) took too much acid and was in a mental institution. These rumors were probably based on some stuff Susan said in the National Police Gazette in 1968.



“[I became] hooked on LSD and marijuana. It calmed me down, and I made such wonderful love. I needed LSD every day, almost every hour. I took all sorts of drugs when I was in Hollywood… I used to do wild, nude dances at parties held by big-time Hollywood stars.”

(The National Police Gazette. September, 1968. qtd. in Susan Denberg Biography.)

However, she did not die and is not in a mental institution conversing freely with invisible sentient orange juice (again, we’ve all been there).

These days, the 66-year-old Ms. Denberg is alive and well and presumably acid-free back home in Klagenfurt, where she is back to being good old Dietlinde Zechner. She has happily settled in to family life after her brief splash in films and television.

Flashback Friday: Pricklypear li’l G and couch fort bravado

June 24, 2011

This entry originally appeared in slightly different form on October 28, 2009 at 1:45pm.


Photographed by Sally Munger Mann.

Me, she had dispensed from joining the group; saying, “She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation, that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner — something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were —– she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children.”


via.

“What does Bessie say I have done?” I asked.

“Jane, I don’t like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent.”

(Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre. Cornhill: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1847. pp. 3-4.)



Worst. Christmas. Ever.

Do you remember the positive indignation of adult severity in the face of your early self-expression? I think the knife really twisted because you knew they were just flying by the seat of their pants, arbitrary jerks running scared, threatened by your stabs at mastery. They had no more particular power or experience than another kid facing you down in a play war.


Another by Ms. Mann.

Don’t forget that. Every person who attempts to wave some type of banner of authority in your face is probably prickly-sweaty under the arms and hopped up on 90% couch fort bravado. Poke their pile of cushions with a stick and see if it tumbles down.

Flashback Friday: Bookfoolery: If I never sleep again until the end of my days, at least I will die well-read

June 3, 2011

This post originally appeared on June 24, 2010 at 6:26 p.m.

Maybe “well” is subjective …


If anyone but my Asia Argento plays Lisbeth Salander in an English-speaking adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I will put my hand through a blender. I pictured her the entire time I was reading.

Finished Girl With the Dragon Tattoo over a sleepless night that lead to one uneasy stretch of light snooze cut short by sudden bouts of vomiting. I found it very absorbing — the book, not the violent gut spasms from who-knows-what combination of stress and inattentively poor personal care — but it caromed briefly in to a few areas for which I was not wild. Still it all hung together in the end and I recommend it without reservation. Then I ended up reading a particularly pulpy and breezy Ross Macdonald mystery from the 70’s whose title I have already forgotten even though it kept me company for several hours.


See? Lots of people have insomnia and go on to have perfectly normal Summers! The Shining (Kubrick, 1980).

I only remember that I’d picked it up a few months back along with a couple 70’s editions of Zane Grey at my preferred comic store, which, besides selling comics and related games and accessories, also carries a small inventory of used, cheapo books and spotty collections of memorabilia depending on what luckless local nerds have either died or lost enough money to place their treasures in hock. I snatched up the Greys and this Macdonald book a few months ago because I dug the kind of blocky-schlocky look to the lines of the cover art.


The Underground Man — that’s right. Decent enough title, I guess.

The phrase “blew my mind” was used repeatedly in the book to refer to literally taking too much acid and suffering brain damage and prolonged schizophrenic episodes triggered by hallucinations, which usage I thought was a handy demonstration of the evolution of slang — in the book it was suggestive of overdose and possible fatality, but you can see how it developed over time the more benign definition it has now in the sense of changing one’s worldview in a feller-than-the-usual-pace-of-educational swoop, while still somewhat referencing the phrase’s original intent.


2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968). He swar to gar for all his life that whole sequences of this film were not planned to look like an acid trip, to which anyone who has ever done acid says, “Sure.”

The Macdonald book wasn’t the worst thing ever and some of the slangy shenanigans and quaintly dated rough talk in it wet my palate for some Hammett. I never re-read Red Harvest until October (red HARVEST, get it?) but I also brought down with me from Portland The Dain Curse and the Op’s short-story collection and could give one of those a spin. Think that’s what I’ll do tonight.

Actually maybe Hammett is only the appetizer. Know what? I think I will try to squeeze in L.A. Confidential before I have to pick up Tommyknockers. I usually, though not maniacally, like to read that closer to Christmastime because of the whole Bloody Christmas scandal that sparks so much of the action, but I’ve been self-auditing through all these long sick waking nights, and by setting this bookfoolery in to print I have come to see that I’ve got some really fucked-up and compulsive reading habits which are even perhaps the least of my worries and so I feel like rebelling against myself in this small thing to test the waters of making Change happen. I’m going to do this because I can.

Synchronicity — just dug out Red Harvest and the quote on the front cover is from Ross Macdonald, the author whose pulp I read this morning. Wild way that the universe is telling me I’m on the right track? or subconscious self-affirmation from whatever part of my brain has been looking at that (quite kickass) Red Harvest cover for the last four years?

I can’t say for sure. Either way, tell that girl from Canada that it ain’t ironic.

Take-two Tuesday — Daily Batman: Enter the Bookworm and Up With Love plus Surprise Connections and Zodiac-quackery

May 31, 2011

This post originally appeared on January 5, 2010 at 8:05 pm.


Roddy McDowall and Francine York, Batman, “The Bookworm Turns,” Season 1, Episode 29. Original airdate April 20, 1966. Well, that’s inauspicious. Shit.

I hate to come off as a down-at-the-mouth grump on the topic of love. I am a romantic. Here is the Bookworm and his lady, the lovely librarian Miss Lydia Limpet, and may I add that I rooted like gangbusters for this pair to win?


via Batman villains database — I love clunky contraptions on men’s heads. I find it so fucking cute. I really do.

In fact, I remember pretty strongly wanting him for myself (girls like a boy who reads!), but I rightly understood Miss Limpet having him was almost the same thing. Later, when I figured out he was in Planet of the Apes, I was even more impressed, but, being a fickle little girl, I soon made way for other crushes, like Matthew Broderick and the Great Mouse Detective — shut up, because that could work — to the point that, when I stayed at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona several years back and was given the “Roddy McDowall room,” I merely remarked that I’d “once thought he was cute,” and meant nothing more by it.

Interestingly, after his role as the Bookworm in the live-action television series, McDowall continued to wreak villainy in the DC world. He voiced Jarvis Tetch/the Mad Hatter for both Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, as well as performing him in a brief cameo for the late ’90s animated Superman.

In the original television series, the Mad Hatter was played by David Wayne. More on the Mad Hatter another day cause he was really depressed as a character and had some killer-great deadpan lines, even though no one matches King Tut in my estimation for the male villains’ comedic value. But back to love, because that is what I’m trying to prove is probably more important than trivial details of cartoons and old lunchbox-selling serials.

No, I can’t stop talking about it. Okay, because I’m looking at his page on the imdb to make sure I had the dates and titles right and it ends up Roddy McDowall was also the Breadmaster on Edlund’s masterwork The Tick, which is of grave emotional significance to me, and, moreover, had cameos on Darkwing Duck, Quantum Leap, and mother-effing Gargoyles. Also, he was monumentally in to photography and experimental camerawork. So, holy hell, I was smart to have a crush on him as a kid and now I’m going to have to get back to Roddy McDowall another day; he’s obviously been far more of an important thread in my life than I ever could have possibly understood … y’all please excuse me because Roddy McDowall has just now blown my mind.

Finally, according to authorities on these matters, the Catwoman outfit regularly worn by Julie Newmar appears to have been “upcycled” and worn by Francine York (who played librarian Miss Limpet on Batman) for the Lost In Space episode “The Colonists.” Also, in looking for pictures of her, I stumbled across a page where a woman had collected a bunch of pictures of famous Virgo women and though I always claim to put almost zero stock in that stuff, I have to say that they/we all have the faces of birdlike closet freaks who are too shy to smile with our lips parted but rock straight-up crazy do-me eyes despite our distrust of other people — to say nothing of the number of patron saints in her gallery of too-close-to-home horror. Good thing I think that’s largely bunk, or the unnerving similarities might have me concerned that my chakras weren’t aligned with the downward dog position of my chi and I’d have to bury a peeled potato under a full moon or some shit.

Truly the end of this post. Moving on for my own sake.

Art of the cover: Moby-Dick reimagined

May 30, 2011


Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed; and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.

(Herman Melville. Moby-Dick, final sentence. 1851. *SPOILER ALERT, the seas do not gang dry. Don’t tell.*)

This imagined cover art for Melville’s Moby-Dick was done in 2009 by Mark Weaver for the Kitsune Noir Poster Club, the collaborative brainchild of Bobby Solomon (the Fox is Black) and Society6.

May Flowers: Cindy Fuller, Miss May 1959

May 8, 2011


Photographed by Bunny Yeager.

Sinuous Cindy Fuller was, until quite recently, a secretary in a quiet, Dickensian little law office in Boston, Massachusetts.
(“In the Swim.” Playboy, May 1959.)

It really was Dickensian; her employer was cheap on coal and ink, ran a ring of pickpocket orphans, and was a double agent for the French Revolution. Bad scene. So glad she got out.


My favorite shot of Cindy Fuller ever — it actually comes from a different Playboy feature.

It was in the hope of becoming a professional swimmer that Cindy left the bastion of the Brahmins for the balmy, baskable Florida clime.

(Ibid.)


Her aquatic talent, plus her stunning looks, make her a natural, and just before putting this issue to press, we learned that Cindy had won an assignment with the Water Follies.

(Ibid.)

You are like, “What are the Water Follies?” and I am like, “I don’t know either.” Let’s find out together. Walk with me to a place I like to call Googlytown. No, we don’t need to take the car. It’s close enough to walk. Jeez, City Boy.


Runner-up for favorite shot.

The International Water Follies appear to have been started by synchronized swimming and water sports entrepeneur Sam Snyder.

Billed as the “world’s longest traveling aqua show,” … the group included swimmers, divers,comedy divers, and water ballet swimmers.

(Synchronized Swimming: An American History. Bean, Dawn Pawson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2005: p. 11.)

Interestingly, according to Synchronized Swimming, Snyder was in Boston prior to moving the Follies to Miami (p. 14). This is interesting because Cindy was a Bostonian gal. Stay with me. The outfit he ran in Mass. during the 1930’s was called Sam Synder Productions of Boston, and it seems to be shortly after that that he hit FL for the first time, where the St. Petersburg Aquabelles performed.


After taking a break for the second World War, Snyder hit up the Bay Area in my Norcal neck of the woods, starting synchro programs in San Francisco and Oakland. Not long after, he took the production to Miami as Sam Snyder’s International Water Follies (p. 43).

Interest in synchronized swimming and watersports shows was strong enough both domestically and internationally that the Follies made it in to Billboard.

Sam Snyder’s Water Follies will mark its 25th season as it readies for a tour of the United States due to start next month. … Unique this season is … a new gimmick in water shows [with] the introduction of surf boards and small canoes in production numbers.

(“Snyder Readies 25th ‘Follies’; Plans Recording.” Billboard. March 4, 1960. p. 135.)

Mr. Snyder also recorded the singers whose music he used in his show and released their albums under his own label. I am coming up goose eggs on when his ambitious productions finally ceased, but if I ever find out, I’ll come back and let you know.

And that’s the story of the International Water Follies.

Ms. Fuller says she was the first Jewish playmate (we’ve talked about the contention for that title before), and she may well be very correct in that claim. After the Water Follies, Ms. Fuller also danced at the world-famous Copacabana in New York. Today, she goes by her married name, Cindy Fuller Martino, and is a professional artist.



Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find 10 pages devoted to a lively Miami party attended by Cindy and four other lively ladies.

Group shots and an article scan from “Playmate House Party” and “Bunny’s Honeys,” special features Playboy ran in May 1959 and September 1959. Click to enlarge. The latter, “Bunny’s Honeys,” was an article about photographer Linnea “Bunny” Yeager, an amazing o.g. and female trailblazer in the pin-up world. Give her wiki a spin. You’ll be glad!


top, L to R: Janet Lupo, Miss November 1975; Bebe Buell, Miss November 1974; Cindy Fuller, presently featured; and the I-can’t-believe-I-haven’t-featured-her super-rad Helena Antonaccio, Miss June 1964.
bottom, L to R: Janet, Helena, Cindy, and Bebe. Adorable.

The above pictures come from the amaze-balls fantabulous Helena Antonaccio’s personal website, and were taken during production of Vh1’s “Rock of All Ages,” which aired in November 1999. Featured were Miss Antonaccio, Miss Fuller, Janet Lupo, and Bebe Buell. What a lineup of special, timeless gals! Super-cool.

Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys: Echo Sackett edition feat. Yvonne Buckingham

January 22, 2011


Yvonne Buckingham.

When morning came, and when I had my breakfast, I sat waiting in the sitting room. I was wearing a poke bonnet and a long full skirt trimmed with bows of ribbon and a shawl around my shoulders. My knitting bag was on my lap and my pick was inside my skirt in its scabbard and ready to hand. A girl can’t be too careful.

(Louis L’Amour. Ride the River: Book Five in the Sackett Series. New York: Bantam, 1983.)

Winter of my discontent and Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Textual healing, “Snow, the hardest thing to imagine”

January 19, 2011

Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.


via Austin Kleon.

I suppose it’s about time I re-read the Lonesome Dove books, but I really do try not to add any more books to my list of compulsive yearly reads and I fear they would so easily slip in to that pile. … Still…

Flashback Friday: New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2010

This post originally appeared, arranged differently, on December 31, 2009 at 10:35 a.m.



Lot’s Wife, 1989. David Wander.

As soon as they had been brought outside, he was told: “Flee for your life! Don’t look back or stop anywhere on the Plain. Get off to the hills at once, or you will be swept away.”

The Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah (from the Lord out of heaven). He overthrew those cities and the whole Plain, together with the inhabitants of the cities and the produce of the soil.

But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.

Genesis 19:17-23, 26.

It’s good to learn lessons from the past, it’s wise not to pretend it never happened, but I am concerned that too much auld lang syne will fuck your world apart, you know what I mean? So take it easy on yourself with the nostalgia today. I am going to try.

All you can do, all you can ever do, is keep going forward.

12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas

December 20, 2010

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.


Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn’t quite understand the concept.

(the imdb)

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. …


… I don’t want to take away from Tim, but he was not in San Francisco when we made it. He came up five times over two years, and spent no more than eight or ten days in total.”

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.

Dickens December and Movie Millisecond: Shutting out life

December 9, 2010

Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954.)


In shutting out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the appointed order of their Maker.

(Charles Dickens. Great Expectations. Chapter 49.)

Oh, Miss Havisham. You are a thousand times more interesting and poignant than Pip. I’ve never liked Pip. What’s to like?


Photographed by Heather Lucille on the flickr.

When I read Great Expectations, the kind of picaresque adventures of Phillip Pirrip are all well and good, but, at the end of the day, it’s Miss Havisham that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the characters as a literary creation that surpasses the book that contains her, just as Heathcliff and the witches from Macbeth do in their respective stories. The image of her wrapped in her rotting bridal garments like a shroud, decaying in the gross crypt that Satis House has become — that’s what I look forward to seeing the handling of in screen and theatrical adaptations. I could give two craps about Pip. It’s all Miss Havisham, and her redemption. Yes?

Daily Batman: Please go crazy, with bonus bookfoolery

October 19, 2010


Photographed by entelpelente on the flickr.

But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

(Kerouac, Jack. On the Road, 1951.)

Won’t you please go crazy just once in a while.

My daughter and I went to the downtown branch of our public library today, to which I had not been in epochs. A year, at least.

We went a little crazy.


Photographed by realbelgianwaffles on the flickr.

I had to buy two more bags so we could carry the books, and my bag ripped so we were drag-assing to the car, both of us weighted down by several bags each. The trunk was stuck, and propping the ripped bag on my hip in order to try and really pull up on the lid sent half the books sliding like an avalanche over my shoulder because of the arch my body was in, where they tumbled behind me to the ground and christ-knows-why cartwheeled in to the smack middle of the drive. Why not?

Kidlet instinctively darted out to retrieve them, so I was in a panic shouting “No!”, throwing my head around to look for cars and warning her, “Get back in position!,” “position” being facing her door, with both hands on the car — yes, I know it is a seemingly fascist thing to teach a child to memorize, but it keeps her semi-secure while I try to juggle crap with my hands full in a parking lot. Today was a case in point. As soon as I’d managed to fumble the keyfob into unlock, I told her to get in the car, and as soon as her car door closed, let out a very heartfelt, “Fucking fuck!” Then I picked up the books. Twist ending!


the kitty nightlight keeps it on-theme.

If you think all of that’s chaotic, farcical, and vulgar, you should have seen us in the library. Think, “Jackie Chan meets the Three Stooges, with special guest writer Quentin Tarantino.”

A portion of my haul is above. Snagged a few more gems for the Wonder Woman research and a couple Hammett novels for funsies; also Far Arden and a new book by Elizabeth Kostova, who wrote The Historian (a yearly read). I almost picked up Embroideries but I’ve almost literally just reread Persepolis and I decided to wait until next time. Does anyone else find to your disappointment that when you read a great deal of someone else’s art and writing, it begins to accidentally spill over in to your own, or am I the only hack?

Anyway, it’s all at your Local Library!

Also, I wanted to show off this improvised bookcover for Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. My California copy has gone saucily topless up front for around a half a decade (thus prompting the purchase of my much more gently used Oregon copy) and I could brook no more. I decided that, after eighteen years, I no longer really needed the Kirkus and New York Times, etc, reviews at the front telling me the book was worth a look, and, knowing the dedication already — to Stan Rice, her husband —, I flipped to the first page and started duct-taping the front ten-odd junk pages together. This made a stiff enough cover so that, when I lie in bed curled on my side to read, the force of my hand holding the thicker part of the book does not wear and worry and rip away at the front any longer, saving the book from further separating from the spine.

I’m pretty proud of my shitty repair job. The spine itself has always been fine, so it as not as though the book would be anonymous when shelved or sidewise-viewed, the only ways it would matter in a search, but I wrote “The Witching Hour” and “Anne Rice” on the duct-tape cover anyway because it felt right.

Girls of Summer: Yvette Vickers, Miss July 1959

September 28, 2010

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!


Photographed by the one and only Russ Meyer.

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.

(Ibid.)

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.


She confesses to being “somewhat of a nut” about health food: she’s often to be seen stowing away vitamins and minerals at an “organic food restaurant” called The Aware Inn.

(Ibid.)

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.

E.E. Cummings Month: “All in green went my love riding”

August 25, 2010

The following Cummings poem is not much like his usual at first blush, but is really full of simple wordplay and tricksy manipulation of conventions that conceals a more complex meaning than simple medieval ballad — which is much more in keeping with what you’d expect, yes? “All in green went my love riding” has been set to music and sung by, among many, Warren Kinsella and one of my patronessiest of patron saints, Joan Baez. The most widely accepted meaning of the poem is that it is a subtle retelling of the myth of Artemis and Actaeon. (Variations of the myth here.)


Modesty Blaise.

As far as I can tell, in the version on which Cummings has based “All in green went my love riding,” Actaeon is a merciless hunter who desires to marry Artemis after he sees her bathing. The virgin warrior goddess is furious at this cheek, particularly that he would spy on her and then imply she owes him marriage (she fiercely protected her physical privacy and chastity).


The lovely and talented Marguerite Empey.

Artemis punishes Actaeon by warning him that, if he ever speaks, he will be transformed in to a stag and devoured by his own bitches, which is where it seems Cummings picks up the thread. Here it is.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the merry deer ran before.


Fleeter be they than dappled dreams
the swift sweet deer
the red rare deer.

Four red roebuck at a white water
the cruel bugle sang before.


Horn at hip went my love riding
riding the echo down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the level meadows ran before.


via sabino on the tumblr.

Softer be they than slippered sleep
the lean lithe deer
the fleet flown deer.

Four fleet does at a gold valley
the famished arrow sang before.


Photographed by Neil Krug.

Bow at belt went my love riding
riding the mountain down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the sheer peaks ran before.


Paler be they than daunting death
the sleek slim deer
the tall tense deer.

Four tell stags at a green mountain
the lucky hunter sang before.


Amber Weber for I.D., September 2008.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
my heart fell dead before.

(E.E. Cummings, “All in green went my love riding.” Tulips and Chimneys. 1923.)

He just had to sing all triumphantly, didn’t he, in front of the green mountain? Heart = hart. A synonym for stag. Pretty sure that between the line about stags and the repetition of “all in green,” Artemis changed him in to one of the “Four tell stags” and his own dogs ripped him to pieces.


Liv Tyler.

Also I noticed on this re-read that she dwells longer than I remembered over her four dead does. This makes sense because besides being the ruler of nature and the hunt, she held deer and cypress as her closest animal and plant brethren. The victims of Actaeon’s arrow and his ravaging dogs, those four deer emerge in her description unquestionably as females: they are slender, pale, lithe, slippered — red and rare. Virginal language, am I right? That purity and feminity gives the “Four” power and deserves honor, just as does Artemis’s own virginity, which bathtime-peeping Actaeon and his sleazy, brutish hounds do not seem to understand or respect.


via thechocobrig on the tumblr. fabulous photojournal.

By contrast, in all of the lines which describe his four animals, Actaeon’s “four” appears in lowercase letters — the only Cummingsish punctuation-play in the poem, as the four remain in lowercase despite following periods, which Cummings otherwise obeys with great restraint for the rest of the poem. Actaeon’s four are the four hounds; the miniscule rather than majuscal “f” usage denotes the speaker’s low opinion of them and bodes very badly for them, considering Artemis’s usual respect for nature. The number four, besides paralleling the count of her lost deer, is suggestive of pursuit of living creatures in all four of the cardinal directions, a kind of inescapable squared threat in terms of the swath a disrespectful hunter might cut through the planet of a goddess who considers herself the mother of nature — because of its relationship to “four corners,” “four winds,” etc, the total of four hounds is exactly the right number to appear confounding and problematic. An unignorable affront which must be dealt with.


Abbey Lee Kershaw for Dazed and Confused.

The four hounds may also perhaps be a reference to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse who accompany Death in the Revelation of St. John: the hunter brings destruction to what Artemis is sworn to protect; she is the patroness of life on earth, a mother-warrior figure who gives her attention to springs and deer, and Actaeon is that life’s death, a sanguine, horn-blowing archer with attendantly destructive hell hounds that tear her living creatures apart. An essentially unforgivable encroachment on all that Artemis stands for. Those four lean crouching motherfuckers act as a smirking antithesis to her binding and symbiotic method of mothering the earth, by dismantling and devouring everything they encounter, famished agents of a chaos she is sworn to repel. They tear things up.

In this case, their master, too. Does the punishment fit the crime?

I’ve read that there are allusions here to “The Knight’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I never make it far through those. I know as a happy medievalist I’m supposed to read and adore them and that what I’m about to tell you could get me yelled at and kicked out of the society of nerds who read material that predates van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the very lenses the best of the best wear to strain our eyes over the stuff we love, but I feel that poring over Chaucer is something akin to people in a thousand years venerating the script of Rat Race. Great movie, solidly entertaining, good cast with varied backstories, but, like, how dire is reading it to the quest of accurately intrepreting society in this era? Not much. (Commence lambasting, Chaucer-lovers. Change my mind?)


Journey Into Perplexity right here on the wordpress.

Anyway. If you follow that link to the wiki list of variations on the Artemis and Actaeon story, you can see that different authors have spent time cataloguing the precise names of the up-to-fifty hounds involved in Actaeon’s punishment.

I guess the lesson here is that, if you want even a chance with Artemis, you need to be green in deed as well as dress. Keep your elbows out and for god’s sake recycle, dudes.