Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Apparently, my reference to Kitten Natividad in the last post stirred some, er, memories for Trooper. I defer to his expertise regarding her entree into the world of non-simulated video-recorded adult sexual activities, but I still say that one’s 40s–much less one’s 50s is a bit late to get started. To quote Knocked Up, “You’re too old–not for the Earth, but for this club.”

However, in my youth, Russ Meyer films were a popular item on ON-TV, and my fragile little mind was disturbed by such classics as Cherry, Harry and Racquel and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens. (The former is the sort of movie prohibited during the Reagan years because of its mixing of sex and violence, and the latter is a bizarre little comedy which may be the only film in history where, if you weighed all the breasts, it would be greater than the weight of the entire cast, men included, without breast weight. Does that make sense?)

I tend to think it’s a sad state when an actress, no matter how exploitative her career was, ends up in porn to pay the bills or out of desperation for attention.

Natividad was an early adventure in breast augmentation procedure: She had silicone injected directly into her breasts. This demonstrates two things: 1) a loose fluid of the right viscosity is far superior to bags of goo; 2) people are nuts. It’s entirely possible that her double-mastectomy from breast cancer in 1999 was unrelated to this silicone injection, of course. But, wow! I think you even had to do it repeatedly because the body would absorb the silicone after awhile, but I’m not sure if I’m just confusing it with the lip injections they do these days.

If memory serves, Kitten Natividad was interviewed in Jewel Shepherd’s “Invasion of the B-Movie Girls”. In it, she tells a story of a producer demanding sex for a job while she was interviewing for a part in his office. They haggled, and she ended up manually relieving the agent in question. She then cupped her hand and headed to the lobby. When the producer asked where she was going, she said, “I’m going to give my agent his 10%.”

Interesting if true.

Busty–er, busy

I’ve been too busy to post here much this week, but I thought we could extend our “pointy breast” studies with the anomalous Edy Williams.

Edy turned 18 in 1960, which is at the tail end of the pointy breast era. In fact, I stumbled across this picture by sheer accident, but I remembered her from such classic films as–well, a bunch of movies she wasn’t in because I had mixed her up with someone else.

She was in Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, though, which Siskel & Ebert named as one of the 10 best of the year. (Ebert wrote the script.) She was married to Russ for five years.

Anyway, most of the pix of her show quite clearly that she doesn’t have pointy breasts at all, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the bikini shot here. I don’t know the precise date of this shot, but it would have to be at the tail-end of the pointy breast phenomenon.

Edy never really made it big in Hollywood, despite her enormous talents, and she went from a TV regular in her youth to novelty nudie in the ‘80s and ’90s. IMDB lists her last film as being a porn in 1995. (A little advice from Kitten Natividad: Porn isn’t really a good career choice at 53, no matter how good looking you were at 23.)

Sydney Pollack, RIP

Sydney Pollack died of cancer this weekend.

I liked almost none of his movies. The Gehry documentary was cool, but I loathed Out of Africa, The Interpreter, Tootsie and a lot of the other movies he was famous for.

But he seemed like a good guy. I always thought it was kinda funny/cool that he turned up in movies. I also saw him in person last year and wanted to give him kudos on the Gehry thing but didn’t want to accost. He looked pretty healthy.

Cancer sucks.

Armistice Day

On Armistice Day
The Philharmonic will play
But the songs that we sing will be sad

Shufflin’ brown tunes
Hangin’ around a-ooo

I’m weary from waiting
Down in Washington DC
I’m comin’ to see my Congressman
But he’s avoiding me
Weary from waiting
Down in Washington DC

Armistice Day
Armistice Day
That’s all that I really wanted to say
–Paul Simon

We still celebrate Armistice Day, we just don’t call it that any more. But we have a (b-grade) Paul Simon song to remember it by.

No, we don’t call it Memorial Day either.

Kidde Kattle Kall

We were accosted in a Chuck E. Cheese (part of The Flower’s birthday celebration) by a talent scout who suggested we come down for a screen test today.

This is not an unusual happening here. When The Flower was six months, an agent came up and asked “Is she working?”

What’s remarkable is how restrained one can be when asked if one’s six-month old infant is “working”.

But the kids are good to each other, and particularly polite outside the home, so they tend to impress people favorably. They may, as a result, be more likely to get attention than some others.

Now, most such come-ons like this are a scam. They flatter you about your child’s chances in Hollywood than hit you up for a “photo package” that will run you $1,000 or so. But some legit ones have wafted by over the years and I’ve ignored them all until this one.

No particular reason.

The Flower and The Boy are both old enough to not get freaked out by the situation and to learn from it. Odds of them actually picking up work when they realize it means that someone else gets to dress them, do their hair, and tell them what to say? Close enough to zero as to make no never mind.

The Boy’s sole motivation in going was the potential for cash. The Flower–she has ideas of being a model (as well as a princess, etc.) and so it was worth it to see if they would take to it. Which, of course, they didn’t.

But we filled out a form and waited (and waited and waited, which is also part of the biz) and then they said some lines, and then we went home.

There were lots of kids everywhere, though, including one girl who was a dead ringer for a “Parent Trap”-era Lindsay Lohan. So, your first reaction is “Oh, how lovely!” Then your next reaction is, “Oh. Right.”

But they comported themselves well during the wait, and learned what I expected them to learn, so it was a worthwhile experience.

Building Bridges

I followed this post from Althouse commentary on Iron Man–why would she go see that movie? I’d never have recommended it to her–and realized I couldn’t really do Jeff Bridges justice in the time I have available to blog today.

So I’ll do a mini-post, and a full one later on.

I first saw Bridges in the lamentable ‘70s remake of King Kong, and then watched in some kind of trance, the little known American Success Company. I mean, I watched that movie a lot, fascinated by the weird story of a sensitive man who pretends to be a mean double of himself, and essentially re-invents himself as this “bad boy” to please his childlike wife (Belinda Bauer) and to be successful in his father-in-law’s (Ned Beatty) business. It also features Bianca Jagger as a hooker on whom he practices his sexual skills.

The thing about Bridges is that he’s all over the place, and always turning up in unexpected places. He can do quirky, such as in The Big Lebowski, Fearless, or Starman, and K-PAX showed he could do the straight role against someone doing the space alien bit. But he’s also been a good everyman in The American Success Story or The Vanishing, the hard-boiled detective (Eight Million Ways To Die) or the President (The Contender).

And his films cover a wide assortment, from sci-fi (TRON) to comedy to drama – to that funky one where he’s the gymnastics coach (Stick It!). The only thing I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do is a western.

But he’s always enjoyable. Indeed, the real shame of Iron Man is that he didn’t have a bigger role and a secure place in the sequel.

So, until I have a chance to post a real paean, well, the Dude Abides.

In Which I Reveal My (and Others’!) Qualifications For Presidents

The Flower, who likes things to be grand, chose to go bowling for her birthday (because we had last year, and she wanted to double-up and go bowling and do miniature golf this year but the mild rain thwarted her plans to tilt at windmills).

The Flower just turned seven. But she, The Boy and I all beat Barack Obama’s 37 score before the 7th frame (in which he quit).

Full disclosure: We had the gutter bumpers up.

It was actually our purchase of a Wii last year that inspired The Flower to go bowling in the first place. I was rather astonished that, right off the bat, I rolled a turkey. I’d never done that before in my life, and I even followed it up with a spare or two, but then my game went to hell and I started bouncing off the bumpers.

This year I opened with just one strike, and then went to hell.

The thing is, bowling is really easy. Not to excel at, of course. It’s an endurance test and, at least in my case, a sort of meditative challenge as (for me) the best way to bowl is just to walk up and roll the damn ball. If I think, or plan, or do anything else, bad things happen.

Even so, a reasonably fit person should be able to bowl around 100, even if they’ve never seen a bowling ball before. It has the virtue of being instantly grasp-able.

So, 37 is a pretty bad score, but I think what struck me the most was that he quit in the 7th frame. I’ve heard that offered as a defense, as if he were going to strike out the rest of the game and finish with 120.

But he didn’t finish, of course, and why not?

My theory is that, like other candidates, he has no humility. He’s expected to be a perfect person–an idea that he encourages–with perfect solutions to all the world’s problems. Therefore, he couldn’t bear to show his mortality with something as prosaic as bowling.

I find this troubling.

Obama, in particular, has yet to show any genuine self-deprecation. Or any self-deprecation, come to think of it, that I’ve seen.

I wondered, as I watched The Flower struggle with the bowling ball–she can’t swing even a lightest ball with just one arm–how I would react if she decided she wasn’t having any fun and wanted to quit.

I’d probably let her, but I’d be disappointed.

Cubed

In 1997, Vincenzo Natali wrote and directed a neat little horror/character study called Cube. He did it all in Canada and looked like it was all done in the same little room. It felt like it should’ve been a stage play, in fact.

A group of people trapped in (presumably, though we never see it) a cube, try to find a way to escape. Each room they entered had the possibility to be trapped, with some horrifyingly gruesome trap (many of which have turned up in other movies).

The gruesomeness of the traps was enough that you really were filled with dread when they’d dare to enter a new room. Combined with this was a drama between the characters, as they got increasingly paranoid and not sure whether they could figure out a way out.

This all worked surprisingly well, partly because we actually never find out what’s going on. We’re let with suspense and drama and morality play, and the filmmakers and audience are spared having an explanation that either disrupts the suspension of disbelief or is otherwise unsatisfying.

The sequel and the prequel–well, the prequel anyway, I’m watching the sequel (Cube 2) now–try to explain it. Cube 2 goes sci-fi and Cube 0 goes for “military experiment” explanation. Cube 2 is going military experiment but it’s pure speculation at this point. However, while starting out strong, they’ve made the threat some CGI geometrical shapes and other effects, which is rather less visceral than the original.

The whole scenario is actually like an original episode of the Twilight Zone. The first one’s recommended, the sequels not as much.

Traci, I Love You!

It has taken considerable time for me to get to this review of Traci Lords biography, Underneath It All, first mentioned two months ago, and read shortly after. There are a couple of reasons for this.

I’m not much of a book reviewer. I don’t know why. I read a ton. I was reading back in nursery school (no exaggeration). I’ve written books, as well. But I can riff off a movie review in a few minutes, complete with citations to movies and movie (and other art) history while I tend to brood over books.

Also, this is a biography. So, at some level, I’m probably overly cautious about what I say. This may stem from knowing celebrities who have been mistreated in the media. (It’s a mainstream sport these days to abuse celebs.)

But here we are, so let me see if I can capture the experience of reading this book. At first, it felt like a Hallmark movie. Then it sort of segued into a After School special. Then it goes into ‘80s B-movie territory. And then, briefly, becomes a sort of espionage thriller.

And then, you realize, this is somebody’s life!

After that, it plays out as a fairly standard Hollywood bio, and Traci’s led a pretty normal life for a B-list actress. If that sounds dismissive, it shouldn’t. That’s quite an achievement, really.

Traci was born into the sort of poverty that arises from bad judgment and shuttled between a violent father and a flighty mother, to say nothing of a number of creepy stepfathers. She was an early bloomer, of course, and this led to being assaulted, molested and just generally not allowed to feel safe from about the time she was ten.

This predictably leads to early sex, drugs and alienation from her mother. A creepy stepdad leads her into porn. First centerfolds, then movies.

It sounds cliché, yes, and is. And yet I think to read it as a parent and not be moved is to be made of stone. How could there be no one to help a little girl? Early on in the book, I wanted to punch a lot of people.

The story doesn’t feel like it’s ghost-written. It’s told in a very plain style and is really the antithesis of Linda Lovelace’s books. Lovelace’s books were outrageous and designed to titillate. They are like the original nudies, which would feature an hour-and-a-half of debauched behavior bookended by a doctor explaining how horrible venereal disease was, or something.

Lords spends just a tiny fraction of her book on her time in the sex biz, presumably reflecting the proportion of attention she’d like that part of her life to get. (I think she said six months of doing blue movies.)

I find her credible (unlike Lovelace). She describes a naive child who is desperate for money, finds a way to make it, but keeps hoping to get caught. She doesn’t actually run down anyone in the industry (except to say that a few were sleazy and, well, duh); the impression one gets is that she barely knew anyone. Also, she never says it outright, but she was probably pretty bitchy.

I don’t think she credits the drugs enough, either. She goes from “never gonna” to “ok, here I go” in a few minutes with some chemical help. She describes being freaked out by being on a porn set for the first time, then taking drugs, then saying “I don’t know why” she had sex with one of the guys there, and never says, “Oh. Maybe it was the drugs.”

Ultimately, though, she takes responsibility for what she did which was not necessarily what I was expecting.

For me, the real kick to the crotch was when she gets busted by the Feds. If you remember the ’80s, you’ll remember the shrill hysteria that was the Reagan-era embrace of censorship. In an attempt to roll back the sexual floodgates of the ’70s, pornography in the ’80s was attacked from the angle of “protecting the children”. (I’m told the Feds were the number one purveyors of child porn during this time, so determined were they to stamp out the perverts.)

Apparently, though, they had been monitoring Traci since she was a centerfold. In other words, they watched as an underage girl was put through the sex-industry meat grinder in the hopes of being able to use her against consenting adults! In the process, they endangered her life, both in the sense that she might have ODed or committed suicide, and in the sense that they put her in the cross-hairs for porn thugs to threaten.

This is the government. This is the government protecting children. Any questions?

This is also the brief foray into thriller territory which, fortunately for Traci, doesn’t last long. She exits this section of her life as an adult with a notorious past, a few bucks from the one legal porn she did, and a hope to make a legitimate career.

A far cry from the mastermind that the news media and some porn insiders have made her out to be. And, if that were her genuine personality, she probably could have made a ton of cash and become a(n even bigger) porn legend, just on the free press she was given.

She explains, convincingly, that she tried to give up the Traci Lords name during her model days, but that when potential employers found out, as they almost invariably did, they felt deceived. So she embraced the name.

Again, the porn industry narrative that they were poor, gullible, good-hearted folk who were duped by a Machiavellian teenager is as silly as Lovelace’s earlier contentions that there was a literal gun to her head during the filming of Deep Throat, just you couldn’t see it and nobody else could remember it, or they had all concocted a cover story they managed to keep straight for decades. Etc.

Other than just being the porn industry, Lords doesn’t actually accuse anyone in it of doing wrong. Meanwhile, she’s popular and talented enough to have gotten steady work for over two decades. (Including her most recent gig in a Kevin Smith movie–and Smith doesn’t seem to like working with unpleasant women.)

And the rest of her book (most of it) is tales of her non-porn work and life, though always with that shadow in the background. Even late in life, she’s hounded by the spectre of whether or not people’s actions are informed by her past, though she seems to have adopted a healthy “who cares” attitude with regard to her fans.

Her grown-up struggle is not particularly original, otherwise, and has some interesting bits (such as her association with John Waters’ ensemble on Cry-Baby) and some other stuff that is less interesting. Her foray into music (techno!) is interesting and was apparently pretty successful. She has little epiphanies throughout which are cute and still reflect a certain naivete. (She apparently entered into therapy and was shocked–shocked–to find that issues she thought resolved still emerged in times of stress.)

But it’s a quick read, and it’s hard not to root for her. According to her website, she’s recently had a son, and I suspect (given her background) that this was not an easy decision for her.

I think, at 40, she’s about to face a new challenge. Unless she plans to retire (which a lot of actresses do at her point in life, not just age but having a new baby) she’s facing the no-woman’s-land of middle-age actresses. This trailer is promising, though, deliberately playing down her looks, and so far she seems to be able to handle what life throws at her. So who knows?

Don’t worry: They’re professionals.

Double standard.

Teachers having sex with students was pretty common when I was in school.

This is the part of having a bias that I don’t understand. Don’t you have to draw the line somewhere? We got a guy defending Hitler trying to save face for their favorite candidate. And we have a sex scandal that, I’d suggest, most parents would want to know about, but which won’t make it to the–well, probably won’t make it off the website.

Though I guess if one can cover up a few million murders, this is peanuts.