Thursday, December 24, 2009
To keep the festive vibe going, here's my new favorite holiday song, courtesy of musician/drag artist/actress Jackie Beat with the soon-to-be-standard, "Santa's Baby." Enjoy and be safe everybody!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you have a weakness for all things 70's and Italian. While a good amount of material has been devoted to the Italian horror genre, it's equal but different brother, the action film, has been sorely neglected.
The fine folks behind the upcoming Eurocrime: The Italian Cop and Gangster Films that Ruled the '70's are looking to change that. The film is in post-production and features a slew of great looking interviews with such genre stalwarts as John Saxon, Fred Williamson, Franco Nero, Joe Dallesandro, Chris Mitchum, and many more. There's one hitch though. They are needing some financial backers to help them flesh out the documentary with footage from the very films they are covering. Who wants to see a documentary about Modigliani without seeing any paintings? Exactly.
So if you would like to help out, just click here and learn how you can help get this documentary on a fantastic subgenre finished and released.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Want proof? I'd be more than happy to provide,
Exhibit A? The latest issue of the legendary Screem magazine, where you can find my reviews dealing with everything from the Cinema of Transgression to Aleister Crowley to even Al Adamson. (Trio of heroes right there.) Being in Screem is a big thing, since it was one of the very first film mags that helped form the demented cinema lover that I am today. It was their third issue, with the The Beast of Blood cover, that proved to be a huge bright spot in my other wise highly awkward and unhappy junior high girl existence. There was something about that big eyed ghoul beheading himself in stark blood red and cobalt blues that has burned into my brain forever. It was that issue that first turned me on to Something Weird Video and films like Bloodsucking Freaks. I actually used stills from the latter to illustrate our fictional family trees in my 9th grade French class, much to the icked out confusion of my teacher. (I should also mention that I also used a picture of Lydia Lunch for one of my Aunts.)
Over a decade later, the magazine is still going strong and features such strong, notable writers like Greg Goodsell (Angels in Distress) and Shane M. Dallmann, among many others. It's a real joy to be in this issue, featuring one of my all time favorite films, The Phantom of the Paradise. (In fact, I want you to go build a proper shrine to William "Winslow" Finley right now.
Anyways, feel free to pick up the latest Screem, ride the mindway, and keep watching this space for further bits of opinionated but factual bits of cultural esoteric grooviness.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
In the Spirit of Halloween, I thought I would post another review from the Vaults. This time around it's a South American treat with a few tricks up its sleeve, all in the form of Emilio Vieyra's exclellent 1967 film "Feast of Flesh." This is one of my earliest reviews ever, dating back to 2003. I still love this film and think it is ripe for rediscovery. It is available on Something Weird's Double Feature DVD with the uber-gory Mexican horror film, "Night of the Bloody Apes." The two were often shown theatrically back-to-back, which must have been a mind blowing combo for any lucky duck that bought a ticket. Moody B&W psychosexual art film paired with a balls out bloodbath, complete with nudity, severed eyeballs, and Mexican wrestlers. (Which I fully endorse all of these elements, by the way.)
Like most writers, it's hard to look at older works and not think about how you would do some things differently, but you have to start somewhere. It's all part of the gig.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy this article and have a hauntingly good night!
There are certain films that have all the traditional elements of an exploitation film yet somehow transcend them and transform into something completely different. Emilio Vieyra’s “Placer Sangriento” aka “Feast of Flesh” is an ideal example of this. It has all the markings of a good exploitation film; nudity, promiscuous teens, drugs, a sleazy police inspector, a man sexing up and then killing beautiful young girls while dressed in a monster mask. Hey, as far as I was concerned, it already sounded like a winner! But as I watched it, I realized that to dismiss it as another wonderfully goony exploitation film would not be fair at all.
For starters, it is a visually gorgeous film to watch. The black and white cinematography is wonderfully, especially the shots of the ocean. (In fact these shots are often so stark, that the sea almost becomes a separate character.) Black shadows are ever present throughout, adding to the weird and fitting mixture of murder and melancholy that permeates every scene of the film. The fact that even the gruesome moments of the film look elegant is a real testament to the talent that was working behind “Feast of Flesh.” Even the sunny scenes at the beach feel less frivolous and more unhealthy, which is perfect for a film like this. There is a killer on the loose and the teenagers (some of whom look like they are already well into their twenties), while aware, react by with their standard brand of airy recklessness as if they already know they are doomed. It’s not the usual immature stupidity that plagues most teen characters in horror films (or real life, for that matter.) Granted, none of them come across mature in the film, but as you soon will realize, reality is a questionable thing in this film.
Which is one of the aspects I loved about this film, is that it contains this slightly unsettling, dreamlike air. When I say “dreamlike” I don’t mean a full blood nightmare or pink-cheeked daydream either. Instead the film lies in this shadowy limbo that keeps you curious till the last frame. The music that is played throughout the film certainly enhances this. The score, composed by Victor Buchino, is lush and quite haunting, which is enhanced by the use of ethereal sounding female vocals. Parts of it reminded me of what would have happened if Martin Denny had composed the Dark Shadows theme song.
Then there is the matter of the man-monster. Naturally, the mask hides his identity until the very end of the film, when both his person and all the red herrings that were littered throughout, are revealed. Now with a film like this, where obviously a lot of hard work was spent to establish this surreal atmosphere, having a mask for the killer could make or break the overall tone. If the murderer has a goofy looking mask, it will efficiently kill any real atmosphere that has been painstakingly created. Luckily, this is not a problem in “Feast of Flesh,” since the mask is perfect. Unlike most cinematic killers-in-masks, which tend to be icy in a mechanically predatory way, both the murderer and especially his mask harbor an air of sadness around them.
This effect is a special combination of both the man and the rubber mask. The former clutches his victims (who are often willing, albeit via mind control through the haunting musical compositions) in a passionate yet desperate way. His mask resembles the long face of a lonely old man with a shock of black hair. In fact, he does not feel like the true villain of the film until the very end. If anything, the real villains of the film are the adults. You have the parents who neglect their teen children while shrugging indifferently about their strange behavior. Then you have adults, like Inspector Lauria who attempt to take advantage of them sexually. Not to mention the sheer incompetence of the Inspector and his coworkers at the police station. These men are so amazingly inept at their jobs that they end up inadvertently killing one young lady while using her as a “guinea pig” for the killer. So what do they do after that tragic event? Use another young lady as a guinea pig for the killer! To me, their ineptitude is far scarier than any sadly seductive madman.
The strange human behavior does not end with the killer and habitually inept police force in. Right from the beginning, we are greeted with some bizarre human reactions. For example, the film opens with a young couple making out on the beach at night. They see the killer drive by, dump a half nude body by the side of the road, and then speed off. Here’s a dialogue sample from that scene; “Oh he brought a chick of his own all right.” “Don’t blow your cool.” You know, if I saw someone dump a half nude body, I would probably not be up for some witty repartee unless the spirit of Oscar Wilde somehow possessed my soul that night. Yet, somehow, this does not affect the film’s power at all, since nothing in it feels like it is rooted in realism. To have realistic characters would have demanded a far grittier film that “Feast of Flesh” is.
One of things I did admire about the group of wild teens in the film is that they are very liberal, since their circle of friends includes a gay couple and a lesbian. These characters, while a wee bit stereotypical, are not used for comic relief and are not used as killer fodder. Sure, this may not seem shocking now, but given the time period of this film, it is very impressive to see (Not that film today has advanced that much in terms of non-biased portrayals of minorities.)
For some of you cult film cineastes, some of the cast and direction will look very familiar to you. There’s a very good reason for this, since Vieyra went on to direct “The Curious Dr. Humpp” and two of the main actors, Gloria Pratt (who plays the sexy and naïve “Beba” in this film) and Ricardo Bauleo (who plays the handsome pianist, Silvio), where in both “FoF” and “Curious Dr. Humpp.” Both films even shared the same producer, Orestes Trucco. (Bizarrely enough, Trucco went on to direct the 1982 film “Una Aventura llamada Menudo,” a film about the monstrously huge Puerto Rican boy band, Menudo.)
“Feast of Flesh” is a film that will surprise you with its beauty, darkness, and otherworldly view of reality. If you are up for a strange film that is both arty and a little sleazy, then you must definitely give this film a chance.
This film impressed me so much, that I incorporated clips from it in my very first video collage art piece, entitled "The Eternal Sea." With this video I got to achieve my dream of merging key scenes from the film with Martin Denny's beautiful and haunting song of the same name. Much thanks to my brother from another mother Mark Warren for posting this for me.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Case in point, a few months ago I conjured up a little tribute piece to one of my favorite films of all time, Rinse Dream’s Café Flesh for one of our biggest local papers, the Little Rock Free Press. A good publication whose vast readerships presumably aren’t too hip towards incredible cult films, especially of the adult variety. Which is exactly why I wrote it. Hey I like to think I do the lord’s work in some weird way.
So when I got an email a few weeks after it hit the stands from one of the main players in the film, you can imagine my shock and awe. The likely hood of Paul McGibboney, the lead hero with the weight of the post-nuclear world on his broad shoulders, finding my piece, reading it, liking it, and hunting me down to tell me was pretty damned slim. Yet I somehow got blessed by the gods of synchronicity and got to interview the man.
Come to find out that he is a fellow Southerner, Texas born and transplanted as a kid to Louisiana. So how exactly did an athletic, Southern kid get into acting?
“I may have been influenced by The Little Rascals features, because I remember my brothers and sister (I’ve got 4 brothers and one sister) and I along with one or two other kids, putting on variety shows in our neighborhood. The adults always made time to watch whatever we kids chose to stage. But, if you wanted to find my brothers and I, on any random day, you just needed to look in the nearest open field or vacant lot and there is where we would be playing full speed tackle football, without pads, with the other blue collar kids in town.
So, it was really no jump for me to become a thespian and play football in school and run track at the same time. Interestingly, though, it really wasn't the fashion in those days (50s & early 60s). I mean most kids were either one or the other (or neither). For me, I played ball because I loved it and I performed because I liked the attention. Then I fell in love with performing. In high school, I actually preached a couple of sermons as part of the youth program at the church I belonged to! These were full sermons! Myself and another guy would alternate each week delivering the hellfire and brimstone. He became an international Evangelist and I became an actor. Same thing in many ways. (laughs) Religious I am not, but there is nothing like the stage! I suspect this is at the root of many of the Bible-Thumping Preachers across America...well that and scratch.”
The acting bug ended up taking a now grown Paul from the South to that great city of tarnish and glitter, Los Angeles. In a country the size of the US, culture shock can be almost inevitable, especially when going from Louisiana to Hell-A.
“It was total culture shock. When I first arrived in Hollywood and would walk up and down Hollywood Blvd., every pimp, panhandler, dope drummer, every kind of street creature would approach me. I might as well have had a neon sign on my forehead, just off the bus. It took me a few months to desensitize myself enough to be left alone. I remember once, I was trucking down the Blvd (Hollywood Blvd, the boulevard of broken dreams), wearing shades and with my head down looking at the names of the stars and dreaming of where I would place mine someday, laughs, and one of those street people guys (in a long raincoat, seriously) stepped in front of me, opened his coat and on one side he had sunglasses pinned to the inside of his coat and the other side “gold” necklaces. He said, You need some sunglasses, brother. I said, I have some brother, I'm wearing them. He said, How 'bout a nice gold chain, the chicks really get off on 'em, brother. I said, Get the fuck away from me, shithead. He yelled, He's a cop! He's a cop! Hide your shit, he's a undercover man! hahaha. It's true. Scared the fuck out of me. I just kept walking at the same speed until I couldn't hear him anymore.
There weren't any people like that on the streets where I came from. Hell, every town had a street drunk (not counting the closet "society page" ones), but they were usually harmless and tended to leave the kiddies alone. I couldn't get over the orange Mohawks, tattoos and piercings (I still have none) and how hip the young people were at very young ages.”
The big issue a lot of creative folks face is how their families are going to handle it them transitioning from 9-5 daywalker to struggling artist. Some are more supportive than others, especially when it comes to said artist having to leave a spouse and kids behind to follow their dreams.
“I think I threw everyone a curve by heading to Hollywood as a husband and father of two toddler sons at age 28. It's just one of those things that only artists understand. I felt I finally needed to give my life long dream a shot, at least, or I would have regretted it forever. It was extremely difficult leaving my family back, but I was naively optimistic that it wouldn't be long until we could all be reunited. It never happened. Subsequently I would fly back for a month in the summer and at Christmas or the best I could. After 6 years, it became increasingly difficult to leave my sons and wife to go back to L.A. until, ultimately, I felt I had to choose to continue my "career" or go home and be a family man. This is fairly typical with a lot of greenhorns with dreams. They become the prey of Hollywood vultures. Of course, not everyone in Hollywood is a vulture...laughs...
I was way better prepared for the journey than some of the kids I met and observed while working out there. I was better prepared because I lost my father at 12 years old and my Irish American brothers and I kind of got in the fast lane and began learning life the hard way...on my own. The streets in L.A. can indeed be mean, particularly to the uninitiated.
Cowboy circa '78
My mom, who has since passed as well, begged me to come back to real life. laughs My sister called me once and asked that I hurry up and make it big because she had seen a guy, whom she hated, from our old neighborhood and he laughed in her face about me when he heard what I was doing. My younger brother was married and he and his wife had moved to New York to pursue similar goals as me, except in Theater. He was the Actor and she the Dancer/Actress. As far as friends and business associates, there were two reactions, Go get 'em, Tiger and What the fuck? Are you fucking crazy?"
Speaking of fucking crazy, some actors prefer the thrill of the live stage while others go for the nuance of the silver screen. It can be a battle between the ham and the subtle. There are the hardy few that develop a taste for both.
“Well, they are two completely different animals, really. I have more theater experience than film and TV, but if I had to choose I would love to make a living in film. It's kind of like your children, you love them all equally and at the same time they are all unique in their own way. There's nothing like the challenge of the stage. The whole process is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. Through weeks of rehearsals, you build your character, adding layer after layer until, hopefully, it springs into a life of its own. You take what the writer gives you, and you pull from your own life experiences and your own soul, plus the Director's notes, and a third person is born. Sort of like that, at least in my own experience.
I am a performer that needs direction, the Director is very important to me. I may get attacked by those more knowledgeable than myself, but in my experience there seems to be two basic kinds of Directors, one that has his/her vision placed firmly in their mind as to the way they want the story to flow and cast people to fit this vision. The other type would have the actor’s improv and try all sorts of things to try to root out a character, leaving the actor to create mostly his or her vision of the material.
Some of the more exciting plays I performed in at the Hollywood Actors Theater (H.A.T) were ensemble pieces. The Boys In The Band By Mort Crowley, which won a Tony on Broadway, and In The Boom Boom Room were the two Los Angeles Premiers that I had leads in. A third was Subway Incident '69, which was the stage version of a Live Teleplay back in the early 60's, which then became a film, as did Boys In The Band. I had to literally convince the Head of the Theater group, Ron Bastone, to let me even audition for Boys In The Band as it is about a group of gay men having a private party which turns ugly. Big deal. But back when it was first produced on Broadway, it WAS a big deal. It was the first time Americans got a look at the private world of gay men. Ron laughed his ass of when I was begging him to at least let me read for it, declaring, "If there's anyone in this Theater Troupe that isn't right for ‘Boys it's you’.
Well shit like that there just gets me more juiced so I got my mojo workin' and got in to read and landed one of the two leads, Donald, to great reviews. I got to meet the Writer Mort Crowley at our after-the-show hangout, Two Guys From Italy Restaurant and Bar, who told me I was the only person he ever saw play Donald the way he had Donald envisioned in his mind. That's the stuff Actors live for; to be legitimized by key people in your industry keeps you going to say the least. At that time, he was co-Directing the TV series Hart To Hart and invited me to call his office to come in for a reading.
In The Boom Boom Room by David Rabe is a dark play about abuse, physical and mental, and offered me the most challenging role for 1982, maybe of all I have ever done. I played Big Al Royce (don't ya just love that name), which was played in the New York Premier by Christopher Lloyd. Coincidently, the open cattle call for Big Al, brought in over 1500 Actors, it eventually got down to me and Richard Belzer. I got the role, he got famous...laughs. As you know, he also has a Cameo role in Cafe Flesh.
Two cool dudes-
Paul & Jerry McAffee in David Rabe's play "In the Boom Boom Room"
Big Al is a violent ex-con who has a psychotic acid-head sidekick name Ralphie. He meets up with the leading lady of the show, Chrissie played by Sandi MacGregor, an incredible (but aloof) actress from Australia, in a strip joint in the play. After hooking up with her, their relationship becomes part of the abuse in the play. In fact, our version of the piece had Big Al beating her to death at the very end of the final Act. You know, it makes for a scary curtain call with a final scene like that. laughs This is truly an Actors type of play, but beware if you're thinking of staging it...ANYWHERE. It requires a high level of performance from every character. This is when I met and got to work with the fabulous Julie Newmar! She played the dance captain at the club where Chrissie strips in The Boom Boom Room. God, she's so beautiful (even now) and graceful, a really sensitive (but tough) lady, it took me a couple of weeks to get used to being in her presence. All I could think of was the woody I had every time I would see her as Cat Woman on the Batman TV series...laughs...seriously. Then to actually work with her was just another exciting moment in my life.
Ron Bastone directed Boom Boom and Subway Incident '69. I loved that guy. He and his son, Dondi Bastone, became close friends of mine. Coincidently, Dondi's two best friends were Anthony and Flea in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At the time he and I shared a house and I got to know them pretty well. I know they got a kick out of me being from Louisiana and all, but I am glad to have gotten to know them before they were famous. They played here in my town one time a while back, and I thought about trying to get in to see them, but changed my mind just in case they might say "Paul Who"? laughs (Writer’s Note: Dondi went on to play Nick’s best friend, Spike in Café Flesh. Small world, eh?)
Bastone employed a very unique and ahead of its time Electronic Theater technique in Subway. The cutting edge back then was videotape, and Bastone shot scenes with all the characters dialogue in various parts of New York right up until the moment they enter the Subway on stage. We had a big screen (for then) TV mounted on either side of the stage and it really created drama to hear the sound effects of the subway screeching to a halt and as the curtains open the Subway seems to be moving and coming to a halt, but in actuality the actors were on a moving platform and it gave the illusion of the subway moving and coming to a halt. Radically cool Theater, I must say. Director Bastone also had all the actors constantly moving as if we were on a real train and we had to rehearse which direction each our bodies would lean as the train came to a halt. That added another layer of realism to a brisk and comparably short stage play. The play was based on a true-life incident that happened in on a subway in NY. Two punks jam the doors and terrorize the people on the train. This play, if staged correctly, would be relevant even today for obvious reasons.” (Writer’s Note-This play was the basis for the excellent 60’s B&W film, The Incident, starring Martin Sheen and Tony Musante. And yes, Mr. McGibboney would have been awesome in it.)
Café Flesh is that rare bird that intertwines the worlds of science fiction and adult film seamlessly into one amazing and melancholy world. It’s new wave noir that is highlighted by Dream’s (aka Stephen Sayadian) and Herbert W. Day’s (aka Jerry Stahl) talent with both dialogue and casting. Given what an unusual film it is, I asked Paul how exactly he ended up in such a thing.
“It was during the run of Subway Incident '69 that I mentioned earlier. A still relevant ensemble piece in which I played a Marine soldier home on leave who is taking in some sights in the Big Apple with a boot camp buddy from New York. During a ride on the subway, a couple of punks jam up the subway doors and begin to terrorize the people on the train. This was based on a true story, and the film version starred many names including Beau Bridges who played the same role that I played Felix Teflinger.
Felix becomes increasingly disturbed that nobody on the subway car, several men, women, and a baby (played by a doll to avoid intermittent crying and diaper changing), including his Marine buddy, not only weren't trying to stop the punks, but cowering to them. Even though the two punks showed no weapons. Felix, being a Southern dude, is seriously freaked by the lack of folks stepping up to the plate and nailing the little shits. Well, eventually HE does. The play ends with Felix, sporting a couple of knife wounds and asking the subway occupants, What kinda people are you? As plays go, this one was relatively short, just over an hour I think, but it was crisp, well acted, and the drama built so well, that one night we had a guy in the audience leap onto the stage to assist Felix as he opened his can of Southern whoopass on the two punks! Great stuff. So, anyway, one night Mr. Steve Sayadian appeared in response to the great reviews the play was getting and sent word backstage afterward that he wanted to see me, could we set up a meeting. I told the stage manager to let him in my dressing room if he was still in the Theater, and he was, so he came back. He said he had a big part in an unusual film that he would like me to play if I was interested. He said that he needed an actor who could capture a certain simpatico and that he saw what he was looking for in me in my role as Felix and wanted me to be in his film, Cafe Flesh. Cafe Flesh? I thought, sounds really gory, like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or something. So, he handed me the script and asked me to read it and call him with my thoughts about doing the movie and exited my dressing room. I think I still have that script somewhere, or at least pieces of it.
After reading the script, I thought, WTF? What the...I'm not sure I get this, it seems like sci-fi, but SEX NEGATIVES and SEX POSITIVES sitting around an underground cafe after the nuclear kiss watching people do the dirty hula? Is this porno? Is this avant-garde, is this film noir, is this some kind of art experiment...WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS THING??? It turns out, it's all those things, but at that time, at that moment, it felt to me like Killer Tomatoes. I mean it just sounded too weird on paper for me. In that original script, my character takes a bowie knife and not so surgically, removes his favorite male appendage. I'm extremely liberal but there's was no way I was going to do a film where I become some sort of a self-inflicted eunuch. I turned it down. So, I called Steve, and not allowing me to argue with him, he said he would rewrite the ending and get back to me. The rewrite had Nick hanging himself above the bed as Lana (legendary cult film actress and glamour model Michelle Bauer aka Pia Snow) shivers through multiple orgasms with some super-stud Johnny Rico (the late Kevin James, who was also in the Sayadian produced, Nightdreams) at Cafe Flesh. I turned him down again and figured he would just get bored with my ridiculous attitude and get someone else. Not Steve, apparently he really wanted me to do this film so he told me I COULD WRITE THE ENDING, and that he had added a great sort of Escape From New York type exterior scene where Nick goes after the sex police that have arrested the character Angel (played by Marie Sharp) I didn't really trust this little guy to be honest, but those two things, and the fact that I had just got evicted (starving actors get evicted frequently) and Steve said he would pay me in cash, well...I finally said yes.”
Negative Sex with Sex Negatives: Paul and Pia Snow (aka Michelle Bauer)
Nick, perhaps other than Max Melodramatic (more on him in a minute), is one of the most complicated characters in Café Flesh. While unlike guys like Max, he has true love in the form of his girlfriend Lana, he has been robbed of physical love by a war he didn’t start and certainly did not ask for. Voyeurism is a poor substitute for sex but it’s the only one he has and if there was ever a self-loathing junkie, it is Nick. Playing such a role, especially one that serves as the bleak yet moral lynchpin of the movie, but Paul pulls it off to the point that one cannot imagine anyone else in that role.
“Film acting is completely different than stage acting and at that time I was involved 100% in stage acting. So, right off the bat I had to make the adjustment from stage to screen. Screen acting is much more subtle in many ways, ask Clint Eastwood, who early in his career, barely even talked at all in his spaghetti westerns and those have become classics. (Writer’s Note: Having Sergio Leone didn’t hurt. Not to take anything away from ole ironsides Clint.) The scary thing for me is that I am an actor that needs direction. I need the Director at times to figuratively reach down inside me and pull it out. I take direction very well, but my mind is so, I don't know, scattered, laughs. I think of too many things at a time and I have to check myself on a regular basis to keep from rambling and drifting. I'm sure it has to do with gray matter losses that I contribute to my youthful search for truth at which time I may have experimented in different ways, including inserting paper acid under my headband at concerts, like the Allman Brothers, Ten Years After, The Rolling Stones, Johnny and Edgar Winter, etc.
Steve Sayadian said to me on the set that he thought I might know more about acting than he and left me to direct myself. As I have explained, this struck some fear into me as an artist that needs a certain amount of guidance and illumination. I had to make some quick choices and here was one of the major differences in having to do a character with NO rehearsal, AND not knowing the actress I was playing opposite. Trusting in each other’s ability is huge in acting. Usually in a play and major films you have generally six weeks to rehearse and build a character. I showed up for this film only to find that I am on my own and there might be a million directions I could take it and we're gonna do it right now, Hoss. So I say to myself, WTF am I gonna do with this deal? I started thinking, and remembered I am in the prime of my own real life and I starting thinking WHAT IF. What If...I...suddenly...without ANY warning...was robbed of one the most important and enjoyable forms of human communication...fucking. What If I suddenly couldn't do the hot whirling dervish at will. Depending on if there was an available person who would let me dervishly whirl them? What If? You know, that would really piss me off. It was something I was good at, that is to say, acquiring female partners to skip the horizontal light fandango. So I chose to feel deep anger and resentment capped with the realization that I, Nick, was helpless to do anything at all about it. Massive reasons to roll up into a big ball...and die.”
Pulling off any film successfully is very much dependent on the relationship and vibe of cast and crew. A shoot can be either a pleasant day or something that’s the mental and physical equivalent to 120 Days of Sodom, minus the smiles. How a cast and crew get along is especially vital when it comes to independent cinema.
“I have to say that from the moment I went to that building on Hollywood Blvd to shoot this film, that I tried so hard to get out of doing, I may as well have taken a rocket ship to Mars and discovered life there...humans, yes, but humans...unlike me. Unlike me, Joe Heartland recently off the turnip truck...humans from another planet. But, I mean that in an endearing way. But they were all respectful and courteous and helpful and it worked out great. The truth is, most of, if not all, of the extras in this film, were people off the street and people living in halfway houses. I’m sure Steve Sayadian knew each and every one of them on some level. You will find that geniuses have a vast scale, a wide range of friendships. Geniuses may show up today with the Queen of England and tomorrow with that guy that sleeps in the alley near his pad. I can identify with that, though I am no genius, I have always liked people that challenge me in some way, on some level, or just interest me, wherever they come from or their station in life, as opposed to the birds of the feather flock together crowd.
So my interest went very high as I looked around at the cast and crew, some of which I am sure were very high as well. I got even more excited after meeting and talking with Michelle Bauer and I'll tell you why. I had never met a porno queen before. At first, we made small talk like everyone does and then a question and answer period between each other, a sort what do you think about the script, etc. Somewhere in there I began to realize that this woman was not dumb, that she was not only very smart, but that she had a certain charisma and I felt a sort of relief come over me because then I knew that I had something to work with and maybe I might find even myself needing to work up to HER level. She indicated that she had been a Penthouse centerfold. Anyway, she whipped out a copy, which she just happened to have with her, and showed it to me. And, well, pardon me, but this just doesn't happen to most fellas every day. I mean, the girl IN the centerfold, the girl that IS the centerfold showing you a copy of her hot naked self, IN PERSON. Ok, yeah, my heartbeat did increase a bit, in vivid terms, I felt my chest rip itself open and my heart leap out and slam itself up and down on the floor, I became momentarily speechless.
More than good looks: Michelle Bauer as Lana
Smiling, but still, for a moment, I didn't know what to say. That's a great picture, I eeked out after clearing my throat. I will never know to this day whether she was clever enough to try to motivate my character to her character, or if she was just proud of her centerfold status, or both or neither. But then it hit me, that's it dude, that's it! How nice it would be to have a centerfold as your partner in life! It gave me the motivation I needed because then (as Nick) all I could think about was wrasslin' nekkid with Lana...but I couldn’t. I was definitely impressed with Michelle Bauer and her work.”
One of the most compelling dynamics in Café Flesh is the interaction between Max Melodramatic (the unforgettable Andrew Nichols) and Nick. They both are the heart of the film, with Max being the cynical, acid-tongued, bizarre Greek chorus of sorts and Nick being your heavy but good hearted hero. These are two men who were robbed of the capability of physical love by the war, in very different ways. It’s a case of the haunting and the haunted, but the real question is which is which?
One of the most haunting scenes in "Cafe Flesh."-Max delights
in Nick's pain.
“We had neither seen nor heard of each other prior to this film. We ‘ran lines’ a couple of times to make sure we had the dialogue down, but the acting was done on screen with no real rehearsal. I have been around, and worked with many talented people and all them have their own ways of preparing for their work. I have worked with actors that stay in character 24/7 until the end of the run. Quite frankly, it's very bizarre having an off stage or off screen conversation with someone when they are in their character's zone.
For example, I once interviewed, back when I was a Radio DJ, the person representing Disney as Snow White. She was in town promoting the Disney Ice Show and was doing publicity in the local media. So, our live radio interview ended and I thanked her. We made small talk while she was waiting for her person to come back in the control room and get her. I couldn't help but notice that she stayed in character as we were casually talking. So, I began to question her about that, and she answered me by insisting that she really was Snow White and worked for Mr. Disney her creator, etc. etc. Well, I couldn't get over that. I was still pretty young and my mischievous side unexpectedly took control out of nowhere. I fought it, but, it overpowered me and suddenly I blurted out, like I had tourrettes, Well, like what would happen if I were to, say...PINCH YOUR ASS? There was one of those incredibly awkward moments when time seems to stand still and you feel as if you might implode and I expected her head to start spinning around and around spewing hot green slimy vomit like Linda Blair. But just then, I think I saw her just about to break character and crack up, when her handler entered the control room. As they left she glanced back and winked at me. If I would have had about five more minutes with her, there might have been eight dwarfs instead of seven.
The reason I told you that story is because I didn't know Andrew Nichols at all, and the time I was around him, during the shoot, he seemed a lot like his character, Max, off screen. It was sort of what it might be like to be around Robin Williams I think, you didn't know what to expect, very, very entertaining, but there was this edge he had with me also. Like he might be trying to intimidate me, not so much in a bad way, just to see if he could. It was a subtle thing, but it was there. I realized later that he was paralleling his character, or possibly staying IN character and that was his method, his actor's MO, trying to get to me, just like Max is trying to get to Nick in the film.
The Cafe's Master of Ceremonies-
Andy Nichols as the unforgettable Max Melodramatic
This whole thing was done in about ten days; most of my takes were first takes. Had I known the eventual success of this film I would have pushed for a few takes for each scene. This was an Independent film shot on a shoestring budget. There were no contracts, just cash in an envelope. SOMEBODY has made, and is STILL making, a lot of money off Cafe Flesh, but it ain't me...damn it. (Writer’s Note: its more than likely VCA, with their poor DVD release of this great film, are the main ones making any mint from it. It’s doubtful that anyone associated with the film is making anything substantial, which is a crime. Can someone release this film proper and truly uncut?)
Café Flesh, despite some of the odds against it, like having a low budget, explicit sexuality, and being completely unlike anything else, was released to critical acclaim. Yet despite this, to this day you have folks who are scared away from it just because of the unsimulated sex element. (Funny how true crime is more acceptable of a genre than anything with hardcore sex. Lenny Bruce was right in oh so many ways.) These things can be even stickier when it comes to the reactions of friends and family.
“That was my first shock on this film really...the attention and positive reviews it initially received. Everyone from America's Foremost Casting Newspaper, The Hollywood Drama-Logue, to the prestigious and most famous Industry bullhorn, Variety, legitimizing it instantly. Shockingly, Variety called me a ‘James Dean-like’ character! Wow, that totally blew me away, no kidding. I've been looking at me in the mirror for 59 years and I never saw James Dean there. My personal feelings are that Andrew Nichols and Michelle Bauer carried this film for the most part, but I hope my modest contribution added another layer to it. Cafe Flesh was eventually rated as the number one film of it's kind...ever, and that thrust it into the category of Cult Classic forever. Whether you think it belongs with Killer Tomatoes or has a place in film noir history, it has been immortalized for eternity. Water seeks its own level and though there are people out there that trash this film, the fan base has done nothing but grow and grow as the years go by. I'm sure right wing nuts and religious zealots find it less than viewable (as they view it over and over and over), but I take that as an endorsement. I’ve heard it was Hunter Thompson's favorite film and that's good enough for me. I'm not ashamed of having been in this film, and my kids already know this, but for the record, I wasn't involved in any of the hard-core parts of the film. Nobody ever believes me when I tell them that I requested attending one of those shoots. Sayadian said, uh, no, that's a closed-set shoot, because I was trying to learn filmmaking from behind the camera and I didn't care WHAT was in the lens, just so long as I could learn something. I guess I wouldn't believe me either, so fuck it.
For the others involved in the making of the film, I really don't know what they thought about it. I do remember that we went to the Premier showing at a movie theater in L.A. (I can't remember which one, but it was huge), IN COSTUME, and stayed in the lobby during the showing. Nobody really paid us much attention going into see the film (we didn't look out of the ordinary being in Hollywood laughs), but it was a kick in the head following, giving autographs and pics with people and all that other Hollywood stuff. I actually saw Cafe Flesh here in Louisiana, in the city where I live now, right in the middle of Cajun country, at a mall theater! A friend called me and told me it was showing (a midnight showing, along with Rocky Horror Picture Show) and I thought he was foolin' me, but he wasn't, so, we got up a crowd of close friends and went to the mall to check it out. I couldn't believe it, the lines stretched into the mall parking lot! Seriously. My sadistic friends needled me into going up to the theater manager to tell him I was in the film in a primary role, so after three or four seconds of prompting, I...reluctantly...did, and his reaction was, Get back in line. laughs”
In addition to Café Flesh, Paul has also worked on a number of other independent films. Big budget filmmaking may get all the mainstream press, but it is the Indies that always has the best stories behind them.
“I somehow, landed three or four lines in an Independent film with the working title Running Together. It was being shot at the Joshua Tree in California, about 300 miles, I think, outside L.A. It's a familiar place to a lot of people in the film business. There have been countless films shot in that area over the history of Hollywood, so I was thinking on the drive over there how cool it was that I would always be able to say, oh, yeah, I did a shoot there too. The film was about two female parolees who find themselves on Highway 101. On their way, they see a good looking guy in a tuxedo hitchhiking, so naturally, like any two parolee Gidgets would do, they pull over and gave him a ride. I don't know why he was in a Tuxedo or why he was hitchhiking, but it turns out he’s a diamond thief on the lam, who stashes his stolen diamonds in one of the chicks' purse. The girls find themselves in a country bar in the desert and end up getting arrested for what ensues, so they call their pimp back in New York to come bail them out of jail and they go right back to the bar. Which is where my part came in.
The bar is inhabited by two types of rednecks, ‘rowdies’ (Californianese for cowboy) and ‘Hard Hats’ (construction workers). Everything is hunky-dory at quittin' time, but inevitably, after a few pitchers of beer, the tough-guy substitute for sex, a barroom brawl breaks out. The lines I had became irrelevant to me when I overheard the stunt-coordinator complaining that he was one man short. The barroom brawl type scene is choreographed in such a way that it has to be done THAT way or it won't work and being a man short is like a football team having a one-legged place kicker. The stunt man that was scheduled for that particular fight bit, had since gotten a gig on a major feature and didn't show for this less paying Indie film. I don't want to reveal any business secrets, but Union people in film often change their names to get extra jobs on the side in Indies for cash, which is why I am not mentioning any names in this story, laughs. It's the American way!
So I stood up and said, hey I can do it, I can do the fight scene. Total quietness fell for a few seconds, but then the stunt co-coordinator sauntered over with a wry smile on his face, Aren't you one of the Day Players? I said, yeah, but before that I played football and boxed a little bit, I can handle it. He slammed my shoulders with both his hands, then punched me pretty good right in my mid-section. I'm not going to lie, it hurt like sonofabitch, but I knew better than to let on, so after a pause I said, steely-eyed, is that your best shot? A collective uproarious laughter came from the other stunt men followed by the rest of the crew, and the game was on.
In the bar there was a three-foot tier and in the film it separates the Rowdies from the Hard Hats until the nightly fight starts. I was already cast as a rowdy (wearing my own bull-riders cowboy hat) so some time during the fight, I'm sitting at a table and I look at the Hard Hat sitting at the table opposite me, separated by the tier, and he looks at me, and we both stand up simultaneously. Except he keeps going up as he is about 6 foot nine, and I am 5 foot 10. As my characters' face indicates I might be in "over my head", Hard Hatzilla picks me up by my shirt, pulls me over the three foot tier, and slams me down on my back on the barroom table. This was a low-budget film and they apparently couldn't afford breakaway tables. But this big guy was a real pro, and he slammed me in such a way that it didn't really hurt. He had my shirt tight in his car-engine-sized-fists and sort of pulled back as my body hit the table, actually breaking my fall. Later, I wound up partying with the stunt men, and became friends with a couple of them. I'm fond of that memory because THE most respected people on the set, other than the ones you HAVE to respect are the stunt men. Just another day at the adventure office.”
Being an artist AND a parent can be two weird worlds, often dooming you to either “cool dad status” or to traveling ghost figure who pops up randomly to say hi. Despite his tenure in the industry, Paul managed to be in the former, a status he very much enjoys to this day.
“ My kids are the reason I left California, and I am glad that I did because now I have a daughter that I did not have then. I actually had a chance to sign with a very big agency (which shall remain nameless because the agent that wanted to sign me has probably expired from old age anyway) a week before I left Hollywood. This is something I have discussed with each of them to let them know that they are far more important to me that anything else and that I would never change that decision even if I could. My oldest son sings in two different bands, mostly in and around the New Orleans area. They have even appeared at the famed House of Blues in the French Quarter! He is also a chef and can cook his ass off. My second son has a degree in Journalism and a Master's in English, and is the online editor for a large market Newspaper. He has the most incredible encyclopedic mind you will ever find. Ask him a question and he'll give you an hour's worth of info. His dream is to one day have his own political satire magazine. My daughter, the youngest, is now a freshman in college and majoring in political science. Yes, we are very politically motivated. It ain't easy being Lefties in Deep South Louisiana. I cannot overstate that. But, somebody has to educate the unenlightened and I'm not that shy.
Still kicking ass-Paul in 2009
My kids are lucky, even when my two sons were toddlers, when I was away chasing the celluloid ring, they had Mom and Grandpa and Grandma and two old maid Aunts to fuss over them. So they have had a really good family structure. They are all gone now, except for their mom, who probably wishes I was gone...laughs. If it weren't for their mother, my first and second wife (we were married-divorced-and remarried), I would probably be emceeing a stripper act in a seedy Hollywood cabaret or something. She's the real anchor in this family and I owe her for it.” As for the future, things are looking better and better for this character actor, especially residing in the boot of the South. “Hey, the film industry is burgeoning here due to the fact that the state lets film makers work tax free. That can save millions! We've got several TV shows being done down here as well, including a sci-fi series right here in my town. So I have plans to acquire representation for starters. I am in the process of auditioning for Big Brother, the TV show right now. I'm not above doing one or two of those ‘near’ celebrity reality shows either. At my age, it's all a great adventure. I don't really need to win the contest; it's the competing that counts, eh? Life is the adventure you make it.”
I cannot thank Paul enough for granting me such an awesome and in-depth interview. I could not have asked for a nicer or easy to work with interviewee. Feel free to visit his very visual Myspace page and let him know that he rocks.
*By the way, if anyone out there has either the uncut or softcore copy of Cafe Flesh, please feel free to contact me!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The proceedings immediately bode well, as they begin with Siouxsie & the Banshees “Cities in Dust.” From their excellent album “Tinderbox,” the song itself is about destruction of Pompeii from the volcano Mount Vesuvius. The video mirrors this in a very dark but lovely way, thanks to director Tim Pope, whom fittingly directed a good chunk of the Cure’s videography. Oddly enough this song was the first single of theirs to be released in the US. It’s a beautiful video for a haunting song.
After that we get Ozzy Osbourne’s classic werewolf rocker, “Bark at the Moon.” The video is well made and we’re treated to a whole Jekyll/Hyde twist with Ozzy playing a Victorian mad scientist who has created a lycanthropic beast that may or may not be the man himself. There’s lot of great shots of the Ozzman hamming it up, horror movie style, which is perfect for the season. The song is the title track from Ozzy’s 1983 album, which was his first without later guitar maverick Randy Rhoads. Even though former Black Oak Arkansas and Thin Lizzy drummer Tommy Aldridge is on the studio version of this song, it’s ex-Vanilla Fudge and every other rock band in history drummer Carmine Appice in the video. (I would recognize that Guido-stache anywhere.)
One of the cool things about this special is that there are a few artists here that don’t totally fit into the Halloween theme. Luis Cardenas’s “Runaway” is definitely one of them. Yes, it’s that “Runaway,” the Del Shannon hit. Cardenas has the distinction of being a drummer and a singer and was once a member of the rock band Renegade. The cover is decent enough, despite that tinny production quality that plagued a number of rock-pop artists. Now none of that is scary at all. Hell, the video is not scary either, but dammit, it has DINOSAURS. I’m talking big Claymation dinosaurs playing electric guitars and rocking out! No matter what your opinion is on this song, you should never deny the fact that dinosaurs are like ranch dressing…they make everything better.
While dinosaurs aren’t really scary, they are huge creatures with sharp teeth, so it sort of makes sense to have it here. However showing video for The Cure’s “In Between Days” doesn’t. Yes The Cure are considered to by some to be the ultimate Goth band, but they were not always on the dark side of that genre. Certainly not here, given the fact that this is one of band’s sunnier sounding songs. The only thing that makes it halfway Halloweenie is the part of the video where it looks like Robert Smith has Day-Glo eyes. Oooky spooky. It’s a stretch, though I love The Cure and Tim Pope’s stuff always looks good.
Thankfully the next video is completely appropriate and is one of the best out of the whole special. Directed by Jon Poll, it’s “Hollywood Halloween” by Paul Broucek is a catchy tune with a weird, almost melancholy vibe. The video is comprised of Super 8 footage of a wild assortment of devilish and flat out weird characters in Hollywood on Halloween. (Fittingly enough.) This entry is unique due to the fact that this song, as far as I know, has never been released commercially. Broucek is a successful musician, but more in the field of Hollywood films, including The Golden Compass (2007) and A History of Violence (2005.) Jon Poll has also gone on to have some success in H-wood, doing editing work on Scary Movie 3 (2003) and co-producing Bruno (2009).
In a cool twist, after that we have LA death rock band Kommunity FK’s “Something Inside of Me Has Died.” The video is gorgeous, at times looking like a European 20’s and 30’s film. If I knew nothing about the band, I would have guessed that they were from Europe. Whoever directed this video knew exactly what they were doing because this is beautifully made. The song itself at first seems like a decent gloomy dark-rock dirge, but it does grow on you. Good moody music created by some beautiful, china-doll like musicians.
Speaking of awesomely made, atmospheric videos, we have Landscape’s “Norman Bates.” There was no other band really like Landscape at the time and this song is a good example of that. A band that has ties to such equally cool and diverse bands as Shock and Shriekback, it was a given that they were bound to stand out. The song is movie soundtrack worthy with a great video to match. There are some nice English twists to the Hitchcock classic, featuring a large stone estate and “mother” being the lead singer with a crocheted blanket around his face. The camera work is fab and the girl playing the Janet Leigh type role looks A LOT like the actress. To the point where at first I thought they had inserted clips from the movie into the video. A+ all the way.
Continuing on in the vein of badass, we get “Slave to the Rhythm” by the one and only Grace Jones. This is one of the videos that doesn’t really fit into the whole Halloween theme but it is so compellingly strange and mind-blowing that it’s great to see regardless. Jones needs no introduction other than she is the living definition of an Amazonian Goddess that everyone should bow down to. All of the fantastic visuals are courtesy of Jean Paul Goude, who was Grace’s lover and creative collaborator for years. Interestingly enough, almost all of the clips are culled from Goude’s various commercial work in Europe. For you eagle eyed viewers out there, you will spot one of the dancers running around with a tray of Orangina bottles. Having had Orangina, I would be running the hell away from them. That drink is an assault to the fine reputation of Oranges.
The disappointing video blues are soon saved by the highly underrated Lords of the New Church with “Dance with Me.” The combination of the Lords and visionary director Derek Jarman (Jubilee, The Tempest) proves to be an inspired one as we have key visual triggers (fire in various forms, innocence running and lost) and one sinister-sexual juju man in the form of the late, great Stiv Bators. The song is great too, with it being the classic Lords mix of crunch guitars with a post-punk flourish. For those of you not in the know, the Lords were a super group comprising of Stiv (the Dead Boys), Brian James (The Damned), Dave Tregunna (Sham 69) and Nicky Turner (The Barracudas). In short, the Lords of the New Church were a truly great band who never did a shitty song ever. We love the Lords.
In the spirit of super groups, after that we get Strange Party with the catchy and funky “Imitators.” Now this is not scary, sinister, spooky, Halloweenie at all, save for a brief shot of someone with a knife, but it is a helluva lot of fun. Not to mention this was one of the few, if only times this bad boy ever got airplay on MTV. Strange Party was mix of who’s who’s in the NYC art/theater/music scene in the early 80’s The band was comprised of George Elliot, Page Wood, Joey Arias, Tony Frere, Ann Magnuson, just to name a few! The video is a wholly successful experiment with video editing and composition. More current video directors need to watch this and other early video and soak up the pioneering spirit. There are a few famous imitators with my personal faves being Joey Arias as a surprisingly sexy Dali and Magnuson as a beatific Gala. Maybe it’s because I am so used to seeing Arias in drag (he does a helluva Billie Holliday by the way), but he really rocks the handlebar mustache. Not since David Lochary has a man looked so handsome with such facial hair.
New wave shadows in "Imitators."
After that is one of the best bands to have emerged from the Los Angeles 70’s punk scene with X’s “Because I Do.” The video is great with Exene looking especially lovely while grieving, pining, and plotting the fate of her next lover. Shot in black and white, it’s a gorgeous video that looks like a cross between Maya Deren and Man Ray. Plus the song is classic X, so this cannot be beat!
The goodwill gets even better when after that we get The Ramones with “Psychotherapy.” Directed by Francis Delia (aka F.X. Pope when working on such fringe film classics like Nightdreams), who had directed Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” three years prior to this special, does a predictably awesome job here featuring the band playing a bunch of inmates in an insane asylum. In addition the cast of the characters around them, which includes a blonde elf child-woman, a python, and one cute punkette that looks like Gia Carangi’s cousin. But the big highlight is Dennis Edwards (who was also in the Delia produced, Stephen Sayadian directed Café Flesh) as a troubled young man whom after going through ice baths and shock treatment, has a creature burst out of his head?!? Unfortunately, the monster money shot is trimmed thanks to the censors at MTV. (Notice they didn’t roll this bad boy out a couple of years ago when MTV2 did their ‘Most Controversial Videos of all Time” special.)
Up next we get the video classic “White Wedding” by the man, Billy Idol. Yes MTV did play this to death back in the day, but for once it was a video that was genuinely good. The video was directed by the very capable of David Mallet, who also worked with such legends as David Bowie (including the incredible video for “Look Back in Anger”), Queen, Blondie, and Joan Jett. Tonally this is a dark video playing up the domestic image of the bride right next to gothic cynicism. I think everyone and their mother by now should know about Idol, so let me focus on the fabulous Perri Lister playing the lead female here. Lister, in addition to being Idol’s non-legal wife for 9 years, was also in the banned by MTV video for Duran Duran’s “The Chauffeur” and was a part of the excellent synth pop band Visage. So give some props to Perri because she’s awesome.
Finishing up part one, we end on a ghastly high note with Bauhaus’s “Mask.” The fact that MTV ever played this video is a near miracle. Not because it is terrible or anything. In fact, it’s incredible, but this is probably one of the most disturbing videos that ever graced their airwaves. (Not counting the entire Loverboy oeuvre.) Keep in mind that this is the same channel that banned the video for Blue Oyster Cult’s “Joan Crawford.” (Which is definitely worth looking up, by the way.) The song itself is one of the band’s more abstract and haunting tunes, which for Bauhaus is saying a lot. Filled with loads of shadowy and surreal imagery, particularly involving Peter Murphy as a dust covered corpse that rises up towards this end, you will not forget this video anytime soon. Unlike the clip for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” shown near the beginning of the special, we get to see lots of the other band members here, including drummer Kevin Haskins as a ghoul and Daniel Ash looking like some kind of sickly tribal revenant. This is the stuff great nightmares are made of.
All in all, this is a very fine first half for a music video oriented Halloween special. Who knew that MTV had it in them? Will the final two hours continue to bring on the spooky music video goodness or will it fall prey to the great monster of suckage? Stay tuned for Part Two and find out!