Wednesday, July 14, 2010


God Bless Bill Shute! And I do mean it! Yeah, I know that many people out there would be more fit to utter "God (something else) Bill Shute" he being the INNER MYSTIQUE STOOGE as Patrick Amory once sputed, but not I! The reason for this is because the man has actually gone above and beyond the call of doody by remembering my birthday not only this, but every other year we've known each other which is something that I must admit I don't do with regards to his which is why I always send him a larger than life Christmas present to kinda "make up" for my sieve-like memory! This year his gift was a real topper to top all tops, he didn't send me that Ronco Mister Microphone that I always wanted in order to spout off obscenities over my sister's transistor, but (get this) a book!

Yeah, I know I already have a book but this one is different from the usual punk rock paens that have been crossing my eyes as of late. If you can believe it, this particular tome for our times was actually written by none other than Ed Wood Jr., the same one of (yawn!) "turkey" moom pitcher fame, and as you might have guessed this 'un's all about the Film Industry (or at least what it was when Wood was writing this book in the mid-sixties) entitled HOLLYWOOD RAT RACE, and man is this a real eye-opener worthy of Luis Bunuel doin' the ol' cornea slice! Not only that but it was actually pecked out in a nice, breezy talk-to-you style and firmly executed for the young gal (and even guy) who was thinking of breaking into the BIG TIME with that one-way ticket to H-wood and all of the promise and defeat that trek undoubtedly would entail!!!

Hokay, ignore the rather horrid back cover come-on once again bringing attention to Wood's own, er, peculiar penchant for lush angora sweaters (which reminds me of that story Taki Theadoracopolous continually rattles off regarding his own personal cocaine-related travails entitled "Giovanni the Cocksucker", a saga which I might relate to you upon request) having a fetish for femme frills the only thing that Wood is really going to be remembered for once the years roll on into milleniums and not his fine film work? I should hope not!

I guess the publishers needed a "hook" to string in the prospective customer but anyway...this fine, easy-to-read book is an involved rundown (and small enough to be a one-night engrosser) as to what all of you aspiring stars and starlets out there pining to perform in front of the cameras have to do, or maybe even might wanna do in order to make your lifelong dreams of being a professional actor come true. Most of the info here is pretty well outdated (there's nothing here about having to blow a gaffer to get a brief walk on), but it still makes for interesting enough if not outright educational reading as to what it was like trying to make it in the film game back in the days before Hollywood decadence and self-pitying piousness really got outta hand!

Wood lays it out there for those of you who, despite his pleas for you to stay in Iowa where you will be loved and not lost, still want to be in mooms despite the great odds against ya. All the smart stuff about having a really good agent, being prompt, studying your subject matter as close as you possibly can, and things that perhaps might not be as obvious to us around-the-world-twice people who already have a handle as how to behave out there in reality-land. Filled with smart talk, sound advice and even some personal anecdotes from Wood himself (a masterful relayer of local lore that he mostly picked up from some of the H-wood veterans he had befriended), Wood makes HOLLYWOOD RAT RACE a pretty hotcha read that (thankfully) seems to surpass the usual Hollywood as snobbery and platform for Social Activism that it has sorrily become somewhere around the time people started taking Meryl Streep seriously.

Since I have about as much of a desire to become a Big Hollywood Star as Jay Hinman has of singing the Internationale in Red Square its those movie-making anecdotes that really held my attention. Many are pretty scary in their own right, like the one about the time western movie vet (and regular Wood actor) Bud Osborne got canned because the fresh young upstart director wanted him to perform a particulary dangerous stagecoach stunt (which was eventually performed by a rank amateur resulting in death, injuries, a new director and Osborne getting his old job back!) were pretty revealing with regards to the stupider, more oily side of Tinseltown I only thought existed in THE DAY OF THE LOCUST. One story where longtime actor Reed Howes, after getting a friendly build up from a young actor on the set of MR. ED, was ultimately asked by the sneering jerk "how does it feel to be a has been?" continues to steam me even if the dying Howes' retort "Don't worry son, you'll never be one" hopefully had the brazen walking turd running away with his tapeworm dangling between his legs. But still, you never know who Wood and his cohorts from Criswell and Tor Johnson to Bela Lugosi (men who the tres name-dropping self-promoter Wood seems to have had a truly deep friendship with, and certainly not on that Hollywood phony cameraderie level) will meet up with in this book, and after reading about them chancing upon the Three Stooges and Pat Butram at the Brown Derby what else could one expect!

(Especially surprising is the chapter on the "nudie" films where, as Wood suggests, more than a few of the budding Hollywood upstarts will undoubtedly be beginning their movie careers. However, as Wood so aptly points out, be prepared to go through a whole lot of humiliation. And please, don't be too surprised when you realize that it's you up there on the screen doing the carnal oompah with whoever, or whatever. Reminds me of a story I heard about Wood seeing some young thing who looked like Grace Kelly totally freaking out when she saw herself doing the do with a German Shepherd, though whether or not Wood was the one doing the directing on that particular bit of pornography I do not know, or want to know for that matter!)

And one thing I really do love about HOLLYWOOD RAT RACE is Wood's style. He writes as if he was still a depression-era kid using terms like "shank's mare" (that's taking a walk, though my dad always uses the phrase "shank's pony" which might be a local variation) which really does give this a homey, old-timey air (even when he's writing about the seamier side of the burgh) that you just don't get to read anymore.

So to all you wannabe stars and starlets, watch out for the phony talent scouts from studios you never heard of and have a stick-to-itveness that will never die out (as well as a job on the side in case the acting career doesn't quite pan out) and who knows, maybe you too will end up in the pitchers! Probably one of Ed's but there's more glory in something along those lines than there is acting in that real-life trash that's being touted as cinematic art these days, eh?

Along with the book, Bill also slipped some of his freshly-released KENDRA STEINER EDITIONS (see link on left) CD's into the packet, and although these were not "gifts" per-se like the book was and were for "review purposes" only they certainly made for exemplary background for one's humdrum everyday existence. Listening to the Sir Plastic Crimewave CD while reading the Wood book did make for one of those stimulating evening pre-beddy bye kickoffs, especially when this underrated Chicago musician (whose entire style of noise-unto-sound seems to hover close to what many practitioners from Chrome to Dark Sunny Land were/are also up to not only then but now) gets into one of his unique atonal splurges. At times Sir Crimewave (sounds like an old James Bond villain) plays what sounds like a bowed guitar drone not unlike Jimmy Page's LUCIFER RISING soundtrack while at others his music is middle-eastern raga robot music played by an android Ravi Chancre, but on a banjo 'stead of a sitar! It's strange to think that of all of the sonic reduction being created in the here and now the only stuff I really like to dig deep into is this sorta-post-music free sound which, come to think of it, does sound like the end-all in a long line of atonal fuzz. A definite contender for year's-end toppa the list and hey, I might even pick up that new album he did with Michael Yonkers one of these days even if MICROMINIATURE LOVE was better than a hot toddy and Sominex combined (well, it wasn't that dull though all of you readers seem to have a higher opinion of it than I do).

Braver souls might also want to give Derek Rogers' CIRCUM_NAVIGATE a try. This is one of those small three-inch CD's consisting of eighteen-minutes of Rogers' strange soundscapadings which comes off like extraterrestrial static with strange mumblings underneath. Reminds me of when I was a kid listening to shortwave between-the-station gurglings finding interesting electronic melodies therein (an idea later utilized by Von Lmo in his various late-seventies bands) or better yet this horribly cheap car radio my father installed in his 1979 Chevy station wagon, only a lot more frightening. If anyone finds out that Derek Rogers is an alien I wouldn't be surprised in the least (the disque might actually contain secret messages to fellow aliens in sleeper cells across the world).

Anyway great choice of stuff you gave away there Bill...and wait until you see what I'm getting you for X-mas this year!


Anonymous said...

Glad you liked the Ed Wood book and the KSE cdr's. There will be two more out in August.
What's most clear from that Wood book is the great respect he has for the poverty row actors and crew people from the 30s/40s. The story about Reed Howes (who starred in his own indie films in the 20s!) brought a lump to my throat---getting a Lyle Talbot or a Tom Keene to appear in his films was clearly a huge event for Ed, and it's that love of low-budget film and its people that shines through his book...and through his own work! I knew that book would have a good home w/ you!
Happy birthday...BILL

Christopher Stigliano said...

Yes Bill, this book will be proudly displayed in the BTC library, once I get enough room and some shelves to set one up! Yes, Wood's admiration for the old guard was admirable...I really enjoyed the paragraph where he described Jack Norton's drunk act, perhaps the first time I've ever read anything "in depth" on that famous routine of his!

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