OUR MISS BROOKS: I've been holding a mini-Louise Brooks Film Festival here in the boudoir thanks to the fine folks at youtube. Spent a good portion of the past day viewing the woman of unspeakable beauty's infamous 1929 classic DIARY OF A LOST GIRL which I've wanted to see ever since I read about it in some film history book during my mid-teens, and for a guy who thought this was going to be a really dirty filmatic excursion because of the bastard kid and prostitution angles along with loads of you-know-what, a good eighty years later I find this feature to be almost quaint. Goes to show you just how jaded we all have become since those moralistic seventies!(Of course I'm pulling your collective 'nads here...I mean if any time in the history of earth was still embroiled in classic post-WW II/pre-hippie gunch existing alongside decadence galore it was the seventies!) But even the long span of time will not stop the staying power of the one called Louise. Overall DIARY comes off standard soapy melodramatic with some interesting visual scenes such as the one where the obviously dyke-o matron at the home for wayward gals rhythmically (masturbatorically?) bangs a gong as the teenage denizens do their calisthenics whacking away faster and faster while her face twists in orgiastic pleasure! Later on in the film when Louise entertains a prospective customer who looks like Uncle Sam with her Jack LaLanne treatment you'll get just as hot and bothered as the hick watching her with rapt attention! Of course it's all sandwiched in between typical twenties late-silent emote and even some moralistic heaviness but hey, frankly if Brooks were to entertain us with two hours of kick-ups in her skimpy exercise outfit I'd watch it over Angelina Jolie trying to pout feeling in her typically cringe-inducing manner anyday! If the words "hubba hubba" were invented for any sorta female, it would be Louise Brooks.
Even more interesting although not as sexy was an Educational Pictures comedy short called WINDY RILEY IN HOLLYWOOD. This 'un co-stars Brooks with Jack Shutta, a guy who spent the rest of his career at Educational playing supporting roles to the bigger names on their roster but here, in a Fatty Arbuckle-directed "Mermaid" comedy, he's a pompous jerk who after infuriating the head of a studio (played by LITTLE RASCALS foil Dell Henderson) is given the worst job the studio has to offer mucking things up even more than usually can be expected in these two-reel shorts. Brooks is of course vivacious just standing there even when Shutta is chewing up everything in sight, and after giving this 'un a gander I sure wish that Brooks wasn't the target of any H-wood blacklists because she had more "it" than Clara Bow ever did. And she used "it" to her fullest extent to the point where really, after her do leading ladies really matter? Anyway, for a dose of what femininity used to mean before women's lip bludgeoned us all into the ground get an eyefulla Louise Brooks and prepare to shivver all over!
***While we're on the subject of youtube I feel the strange compunction to tell you that I have also just finished watching the Firesign Theater's EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG video. If this does come to a shock to the more jaded members of the audience let me wiggle out by saying that I did have a good excuse for doing so, mainly to get a glimpse of Lester Bangs who appeared in the Rebus Knebus crowd scene segment. Whether I was able to or not I do not know...although there is one chap with a remarkable resemblance who can be seen for a second or so amidst the camera sways and swivels as the gathered minions take violent action I must admit that I'm not exactly sure that this person espied is in fact Bangs (looks too thin), but as for the experience I must say that my previous conceptions about this troupe remain even sketchier than they had even after reading Bangs' own CREEM article where he pretty much busts on their concept of humor or the lack of it (mainly their trying to be funny without actually doing anything funny but fudging about doing things in a seemingly funny way while cracking up while they spewed non-sequiters regarding his nonbeliever status). Given that I never was a member of the same cadre that made the Firesign Theater stars of the countergulcheral crowd maybe that's to be expected.
But as far as the Firesign Theater and hippie humor in general goes all I can remember right now is an article I read a long while back (in the pages of THE PLAIN DEALER I believe) about the troupe and how they considered their humor to be hippie-oriented and perhaps gentler than the standard group comedy of the seventies. Anyway, there was a row between them and the SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE cast when the Theater was scheduled to host a 1976 show, with one of the members remarking as to how their humor was supposed to be friendly and harmonically convergent as opposed to SNL's which they thought was too cruel. (You must forgive me for referring from a thirty-plus-year memory which is all I have to go by.) Which makes me wonder...if the Firesign Theater considered themselves hippie and SNL anti-hippie and people such as myself and Russell Desmond thought SNL was hippie all along, was this rift evident of some great hippie chasm we never knew existed? And I'm not talking about the greaser hippies who were basically working class youth with long hair and hard-blues albums but perhaps something a lot more insidious. But after seeing the Firesigns lip synch through an entire albums worth of post-MAD spoofing of everything from CHARIOT OF THE GODS to American History (coming off like Stan Freberg on 'shrooms) I can understand Mark Jenkins' constant haranguing of fellow staff member Bruce Townley in the pages of HYPE for Townley's various pro-Firesign opines. After all, what can you say about a comedy troupe whose album covers are actually funnier than the material enclosed on the vinyl? I will say that the video LOOKED good and that the seventies vibrations really didn't date the overall effect but sheesh, where were the guffaws???
WARNING! SOAP BOX RANT IMMEDIATELY BELOW!!!You know, it really galls me when I traipse over to some of the comments being made on every site extant (with the exception of a few like say...CHRONICLES) and see first hand what people actually think of the culture and civilization that I hold near and dear to my heart...frightening to say the least. Whether it's some "educated" ninny complaining about THE HONEYMOONERS for the way it presents to all of us unwary consumers the evil sexist past (I do not jest!) or the wingnuts (in the truest sense) at THE HUFFINGTON POST deriding Maureen Tucker for being a rich rockstar who doesn't care about the little peons like themselves holding Master's Degrees I must say that I do exhibit quite a largesse of disgust at the fact that even after 5000+ years of civilization people still don't GET it! I often wonder if these perpetraitors and their lackeys are for real or just some strange aberration then I look out my window, see 'em in action then rush to the toidy for evacuation time. And yeah, the level of ignorance that permeates these politically pious snouts can really upset the digestive tract, like during the time when Jay Hinman was getting on his moral superiority high horse and attacking me for my fandom-based efforts some politically pious shit piped in with the oh-so-astute comment that I just LOVE "the fifties" because that's when women, blacks and gays were kept down, and by lower-class ethnic guys like myself who were getting burned outta their houses (and I kid you not, Italians used to get their houses set on fire in West Middlesex Pennsylvania just south of where I type this screed)! If this guy holds a doctorate in Sociology I wouldn't doubt it in a minute! Yeah, I hate women, and I am so glad that William F. Buckley's sister beat the living tar out of Ti-Grace Atkinson if ol' Ti's a representation of what "women" stands for in the modern age. Gays...well, I know that you're supposed to hate the sin but love the sinner but these gays now say that they are the sin so what choice do I have in relating to people who are trying to raise analingus to a protected art form?* And as for blacks well again, I wouldn't ask Al Sharpton the time of day but I might ask David Duke...at least he'd give me an answer! (I hope you see the frivolity of this statement...oh yeah, I forgot the general horseblindered mentalities of you people who forgot how to read between lines and take sarcasm directed against yourselves). Sometimes I think that the more rabid, emotional and off-kilter haters of me and my credo are the ones who actually believed what they were taught in college. And everything I needed to know I learned from reading NANCY.
Yeah, I know I should be used to it by now. After all. how many people out there have distorted and misrepresented what I have written and more often than not on purpose to suit their own nefarious reasons. But hey, what really gets my goat up is that after all these years and this far down the evolutionary tract there are still people who can't, or more likely are totally unwilling to COMPRENDE what I have to say probably because if they even tried to it would throw their precious beliefs in the cosmic man off kilter'n when the Flat Earthers finally hadda disband after Apollo 11. And yeah, a good X years later do I finally understand why all of those old timers who used to rant about the rottenness of hippies (and their spiritual punk progeny!) were right after all...I mean, look what happened when these higher rungs on the evolutionary scale grew up and started calling themselves Americans (and believe-you-me, if they're Americans I'm president of the Emma Goldman Fan Club!) while stifling freedom of speech for those best deserving of it as well as battered the ideals of free association and good times, all in the name of that frisbee-tossing world that you and I sure dread with a passion!
So maybe I should get angry and do a little vexing myself! Well, at least I have my books and my poetry to protect me like Paul Simon did. (Don Fellman, who admits to being a here-and-there fan of S&G, told me that Simon was being ironic on "I Am a Rock" but I beg to differ...after all how could someone who wrote such songs as "Mrs. Robinson" and "Silent Night/Seven O' Clock News" [well, he co-wrote that one!] not be so introspectively nauseating?) Well, I don't have any poesy to protect me but I sure have a load of records to go along with the books, and just a few of 'em can be read about in the following reviews which I know you've been more anxious to glom after all of the self-serving yet necessary quap written above.
***East of Eden-MASTERS OF ROCK VOL. 7 LP (EMI Electrola Harvest, West Germany)
From the same cut-rate budget series that gave us collections by Wizzard, ELO, Pink Floyd and others comes this sampling of tracks from East of Eden's two albums which I understand figure highly in the canon of Harvest Records fanaticism. That would figure since people get fanatical about just about everything these days, and for the life of me I can't figure out why anyone who reads this blog with a nearness and dearness to heart would care one whit about this group's progressive jazz rock which has little if any of the original Harvest credo. Stick with Kevin Ayers and leave the late-sixties toss up of half-digested fusion ideas to those who can really muck it up!
***Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band-UNCONDITIONALLY GUARANTEED cassette (Virgin England)
Y'know, I don't get it. For years I've been hearing about just how much the Good Captain hated this album as well as predecessor BLUEJEANS AND MOONBEAMS to the point where he was tellin' fans to take 'em back to the record store to be returned as defective 'r somethin' like that. Heck I even heard one apocryphal tale about how years later some notable who's a big kahuna on this thing we call the underground scene actually told Beefheart that he had a plan to kidnap him during this period in his career and force him to record as his old atonal self, with Beefheart actually responding that he sure wish something like that did happen!
But then, in Fred Kirby's review of a '74 vintage Captain Beefheart show at Max's Kansas City he mentioned how Beefheart himself was saying from the stage that the critics don't like his new material and all but he didn't care 'bout that one whit! So who can we believe, whose story shall we go by in this case and while I'm at it whose bright idea was it to get Three Dog Night producer Dave DiMartino to work on this 'un in the first place?!?
Naturally I had trepidations knowing whatta dog this 'un is and not having played it since 1979 because it made me cringe like nothing since Dave Lang. But hey, here in 2010 UNCONDITIONALLY GUARANTEED sounds mighty good, perhaps because no matter how you slice it rock & roll in general (as a long-buried music form that was destroyed by the same business and fans who professed to love it) sounds generally pallid next to these admittedly commercial rompers. Sure little if none of the old Beefheart spark is here but the songs move nicely enough amidst the laid back atmosphere and cornball sax solos and I really can't fault Beefheart for making this 'un like I can fault Lou Reed for a good portion of his solo career. Of course by the time side two was clocking out I was glad that it was gonna be at least another thirty years before I'd give it another spin but hey, 500 years from now this is gonna sound marvy next to the rock music they'll be making at that time!
***UPDATE ON MY RECENT COMIC STRIP BOOK COLLECTION ORDER: After a week or two of ponderous thought, I'm still not exactly sure what prompted me to pick up the newly-released collection of Gene Deitch's TERR'BLE THOMPSON strips which originally appeared during the mid-fifties. Probably was the mention in Alan Holtz's STRIPPER'S GUIDE blog which is kinda strange because I never did cozy up to much if any of the animated work that underground legend Kim's father did throughout the fifties and sixties. But hey, this strip, being a precursor to the infamous TOM TERRIFIC cartoons which added a little brightness to my toddler years, seemed to offer at least a smidgie bit of promise for a guy who still can't get over the fact that his pre-kindergarten/social engineering days were that long ago! No great shakes mind you, but the stories collected in this short-run comic are amusing enough to at least warrant a once per lifetime perusal. See Thompson help Christopher Columbus, George Washington and Cleopatra forge history while making it back in time to do the dishes! Elemental fun that I'm sure made for a nice diversion between the adventure strips and LI'L ABNER, though in many ways TERR'BLE THOMPSON foreshadows the switch in comics from hard-nosed, well-drawn works to quick slapdash warn 'n fuzziness w/o the big beef to back it up and for that maybe we shoud...awwww go ahead'n read it!
Also peeked at was a collection of early-fifties vintage CASEY RUGGLES strips that were once again collected into a fanzine-like publication with the expected occasional downgrade in quality. Oddly enough, for a guy like myself who never did like western strips I find these adventures (in the typical "star of the shebang meets up with just about every major Wild West personality extant" fashion) to be not only impeccably drawn but well resourced and executed. Sheesh, I thought only the Europeans took this much care and dedication when doing western comics researching the situations that transpired 100 years earlier with painstaking accuracy and detail to even the most obscure happenstance, but creator Warren Tufts did just that and sure pulled off a good effort that was bound to sit between BLONDIE and MARY WORTH in your local funny section. Read through 'em all in one sitting and must say I limped away a better man. While I'm at it, the CISCO KID collection available through Ken Pierce or ebay's also a worthwhile purchase, with exquisitely fine artwork and stories that actually had me slouching in rapt attention just like some kiddo in the early-fifties woulda! Compare this with anything on the funny page today and watch the competition melt like a chocolate bar on Joan Collins' rump!
*And I really gotta hand it to a certain individual whom I have dissected in these "pages" who wrote me that some tongue-in-and-not-up-cheek(s) comments I made about gays were "vile", and this from a guy who undoubtedly remains an admirer of that fearless AIDS crusader David Wojnarowicz! You might remember Wojnarowicz not only as a member of the early-eighties New York avant rock group 3 Teens Kill 4 (whom I must admit sound interesting at least from a review I read in THE NEW YORK ROCKER) but as a guy who blamed everybody but himself for his contracting of the disease in a weird Marxist/Burroughian jumble and who fantacised about aiming AIDS-tainted darts at conservative politicians and Roman Catholic priests! All I gotta say is...where's your moral outrage now???
**Which reminds me of when I was a kid and I believed the world was flat and the further out you went all there would be is farmland and dusty roads leading out into nada and from there on infinity...or actually not since we were all living in a GIGANTIC BOX that was being held somewhere in the universe where DICK TRACY was taking place! Well. four-year-olds certainly do have active imagination, maybe even moreso than over-the-hill bloggers like myself.