Life in Hollywood: received, indolent, enough, followed, conversation

I felt in the mood to write about my life in Hollywood, but upon what subject? I downloaded a pdf of “Pride and Prejudice” and took the first word that was more than five characters long on pages 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50. These should lead me to my subject: received, indolent, enough, followed, conversation.

Having received payment from Dennis Hopper for my work as his dialog coach, and feeling indolent with his check in my pocket, funds enough to carry me through the next month, I followed him out of his house, half-listening to his conversation on his cell.

“I’ll come pick it up,” he said. “I’m totally out.”

He nodded to me and climbed into his BMW. As he pulled out of his driveway, I hopped into my Neon and fired it up. Hopper could be out of a lot of things, but I had a hunch that he was out of something that I was out of too. He could pay for more of what he was out of and now, by God, so could I.

I let him get half a block ahead of me and followed him down Sunset to the Hollywood Freeway. He got on it heading south with me one car back. Traffic wasn’t moving. We inched along, finally past Santa Monica Blvd., then past Melrose. I remained in my lane. Hopper worked the traffic, looking for openings, for the lane that would move next. This was not the Hopper of Easy Rider, free on his bike, wind ruffling his ‘stache. Maneuver as he might, he only picked up four cars on me by the time we reached Alvarado. We were crawling. One passenger per car, windows up. I was listening to War and Peace at the time, on a stack of tapes.

The Neon was running a little rough but at last I could take it in for a tuneup. Traffic gridlocked at the Harbor Freeway. We’d have made better time on foot. By the time the San Bernadino Freeway forked off to the left, the sun was getting low in the west. I was beginning to nod. For a bit then we made some time, up to 5 or 10 miles an hour, but gridlocked again. Hopper had the constitution of an athlete. He was still weaving, cutting in, weaving, cutting out, and was seven, maybe eight car-lengths ahead of me now. A War and Peace tape would finish, I’d flip it, it would finish, I’d swap in the next.

By the time we came to the Golden State Freeway, crossed the 10, and headed down the 5 on the Santa Ana, I was keeping my left hand on the wheel and using the right to hold up my right eyelid. This all happened in first gear, stopping, starting, stopping, starting. Then traffic freed up and we accelerated up to 15 mph, but only for 100 yards or so and then the lanes seized up again. Hopper had made some bad choices and was only two cars ahead of me. The sun set. Smog, now glowing orange.

We exited onto the Long Beach Freeway, the 710, south, but evidently there had been an accident. Traffic remained at a snail’s pace. I got off at South Atlantic and Bandini, between Commerce and Maywood, because I needed coffee and I was afraid Hopper was going to drive all the way down the 710 to the 105. I didn’t think I could make it. Once off the freeway, I got totally hung up at the first intersection because the traffic lights were out.

Movies I’ve decided not to see

Movies are loved, some by God, some by Satan, all by the director’s mom. If you decide not to watch one, you better have a good reason, because you’re bound to piss off somebody with your decision.

Some years ago, I embarked on the task of watching all of the movies on the IMDB Top 250 list, as it was constituted at the time (it changes a lot). I completed the task, with the exception of nine films, all of which I watched part of (all of which I watched in part). I propose to list those nine films, which I desperately wanted to watch but on some level decided not to (but decided not to on some level), plus Titanic. Perhaps by studying this list, I can form a general rule about the movies that I watch and the movies that I don’t watch.

1. Titanic

2. The Lion King

3. Scarface

4. Grave of the Fireflies

Hmm. The rest of the nine are gone, bumped off the list by other films. Running my eyes over the current 250 entries, I’m reminded that it’s a profoundly silly list (#76, Raging Bull; #75, The Green Mile).

Plan B… I’ll fill out my list with films from the 250 that I don’t suppose I’ll ever see.

5. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring

6. How to Train Your Dragon

7. Black Swan

Still need three more. Ok, first three I can think of:

8. That Robin Williams movie about the doctor in a clown suit

9. Sex in the City, 1 & 2

10. The Passion of the Christ

I thought I’d never watch Howard the Duck and Death to Smoochy, but then someone turned me on to them and I did watch them and I liked them. I was never going to watch the second or third Transformers, but I just read a review by a woman who liked them both, so… This list of ten is fungible. No, fungible means that I could swap in ten other movies easily, so it’s fungible in that sense, but also, the ten entries here could change polarity at some point, after being praised by someone on /Filmcast, for example, and move to that other list of movies, that I desire to watch.

Basic reasons I don’t want to watch these movies:

1. Titanic – The boat sinks and almost everybody drowns. Cameron tries to sneak around this by showcasing a survivor up front. Doesn’t help. I don’t want to put in two hours watching only to have everybody drown on me. At least with The Poseiden Adventure, you got to guess who would make it and who wouldn’t.

2. The Lion King – I’ve got nothing against lions. A guy down the block kept a lion in his house til it killed him.

3. Scarface – Pacino. Did he have the scar? The part I watched, I can’t remember the scar. Did anybody call him Scarface to his scar, I mean, to his face?

4. Grave of the Fireflies – I only got 1/3 of the way through this one before my unsuccessful suicide attempt.

5. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring – This might be a great movie, but there are so many Chinese movies that I haven’t seen, that if they passed me at the rate of one per minute, and in that minute I could watch the whole movie, I’d never come to the end of them because they are being made and are entering post-production even faster than that.

6. How to Train Your Dragon – I was going to say something about a young dragon and her training bra but this is a family blog.

7. Black Swan – I saw a swan the other day. If you notice, all the other birds give swans a wide berth, because they really are crazy, black and white. Maybe not as crazy as a loon, but they’ll spring a hissy fit in a heartbeat if the bread that you throw them is even half-stale.

8. That Robin Williams movie about the doctor in a clown suit – When I was in the fourth grade, we took a tour of a funeral home and the embalmer was dressed as a clown. This was supposed to make us laugh when they showed us the corpse they were working on. It didn’t.

9. Sex in the City, 1 & 2 – False advertising.

10. The Passion of the Christ – I was going to watch this one with my Sunday School class, but instead I had a chance to see a private screening of a phone video clip of Mel Gibson, drunk,  beating his wife with a Torah yad. That seemed sufficient.

Busking 2

I’m still back east and busking on weekends in the city, now at 6th and 43rd. Come on down and watch me if you like. We can have a meet-up.

I don’t sing or dance, so now I present you with a list of personal interactions. For $1, I’ll act out the interaction of your choice for 2 minutes. (Your money back if I break down halfway through, laughing or sobbing.)

My current list of choices for you:

Praise you

Fawn over you

Kiss your ass

Order you to kiss my ass

Insult your mother and the horse you rode in on

Open my eyes wide, lick my lips, and otherwise flirt with you in a creepy manner

Plead with you to forgive me

Absolve you of all sins, within reason

Act as if you stink, or if you do stink, just go with it

Ignore you, but take your money anyway

Throw a screaming fit, tell you that we’re through, through, you scheming, slimy, two-timing bastard! Get out of my sight! I hate you, I hate you, I hate you (sobbing). (Drops to knees.) Forgive me, Baby. Please, I didn’t know what I was saying, you make me crazy, Baby. When I was screwing him/her I was thinking of you, it was all a horrible mistake. Baw. (Grovels, time permitting.)

Treat you like a chicken

Gary Busey and Charlie Sheen at Thunderdome

Gary Busey and Charlie Sheen are friends of mine. I’ve spent more time drinking and whoring with Gary and Charlie than I have with my own dad, we’re that close. I was at the Thunderdome at Burning Man when the two of them got it on. No, Mel Gibson wasn’t there, but Tina Turner was. This was the night that Busey almost bit off Sheen’s pecker pardon my French. We paid a friend a lot of money to keep his trap shut after he had sewed it back on. This didn’t happen at Thunderdome, though. It happened later when we were just clowning around.

I’ve worked with both men as a dialog coach. I’m Gary’s age and Charlie is twenty years younger than us, so when we’re roistering, there’s always a lot of banter and ragging about our age and his youth, relatively speaking. Charlie just needs one glimpse of gray pubes to set him off on a rant, whereas whenever Gary or I see him pitch face-first into his bag of blow or the ta tas of one of his strumpets because he’s too drunk and/or high to sit up any longer, we’ll hoot at him and badger him until we’re sure he’s totally out and can’t hear us any longer.

Anyway, the three of us were at Burning Man sitting alone at a campfire out on the flats and Gary and Charlie were arguing about which one of them was a bigger asshole than Mel Gibson. Naturally, they both claimed that honor. And then, there next to us in the firelight, stood Tina Turner. Tina, who was born in Nutbush, Tennessee, I kid you not, is five years older than Gary and me. She’ll never see seventy again. She’s dressed in her leathers with the thigh-high boots and bare skin above and by God, whether it was the drugs or the firelight, she didn’t look half bad.

“Why don’t you boys come on over to the Thunderdome and we’ll have this out,” she said.

We all got up and staggered over there and sure enough, there were fifteen or twenty young women inside from a Southern Cal Jewish sorority, and they were wearing t-shirts to prove it.  Gary and Charlie charged in and started abusing them with anti-semitic rants that would have shamed Goebbels, not to mention Gibson. By the time the girls ran out sobbing, Tina had the boys by the hands and was ready to raise one in victory. Before she could do it, though, just to prove a point, the two started in on her, from the standpoint of the N word. She tolerated about sixty seconds of that and then clocked them both hard enough to stretch them out motionless on the sand.

“I’ve spent time with Mel Gibson,” she said to me, “while we were making our Mad Max movie. When he’s sober, he’s a gentleman. I have yet to encounter either of these two motherf**kers in that state, so I can’t make a fair estimation, but I’m inclined to agree with them that they’re both worse than Mel, and award them a tie.”

Busking 1

I’ve been visiting back east and busking on weekends in the city at 7th and 42nd. Come on down and watch me if you like. We can have a meet-up.

I don’t sing or dance, so I present a list of mental illnesses and for $1, I’ll act out the illness of your choice for 2 minutes. (Your money back if you can guess which illness on the list I actually have.)

My current list of choices for you (subject to change without notice, or with an insane cackle):

Reasonable paranoia

Schizophrenia (you choose the voices that I hear in my head)

Alzheimer’s (please don’t keep the money when I give it back to you; that’s part of the act)

Hysterical blindness (50% off: anxious myopia)

Threft palate

The yammers

Wandering eye

Uncalled-for behavior

My mother warned me about men like you

Crab walk

Crab cakes

Lobster tail

Acting like a moron

Impersonating Robin Williams

Turrets (todays featured word: f**k)

Chinese A-string syndrome

Nigerian inheritance mania

Bipolar (each pole for one minute; extra poles, 50 cents per; bipolar-curious, a 3$ bill)

God’s Dog 2

I posted a few words about God’s dog the other day and was met with a firestorm of reader protest. Everyone’s an expert. The French believe that God’s dog is a poodle. The Southern Baptists believe that God keeps hounds in a kennel out behind the house, cared for by an angel named Rastus. PETA has some crazy idea about a neuter and spay clinic just inside the pearly gates.

I realized pretty quickly that no human could answer my questions on this matter, so I spent one year figuring the thing out for myself. 365 days in a row, I took a different dog down to St. Canisius on Main Street. All possible breeds, sizes, colors, and conformations. Watered and well-fed. Each day I locked a dog in and left it there for 24 hours.

Only one dog did not soil the church. If you want to know which one, in case you ever need to pray to Him or Her for some pet-related reason, send $100 cash or money order to my P.O. box in Keokuc.

A hint: at the command to speak, this dog goes arf, not woof.

Have there always been “summer movies”?

Summer Glau was born in 1981, so in that respect, no.

If time is a construct introduced by humans because they don’t have the ability to see the totality of action in an absolute universal sense, then yes. Everything has always been and will always be, including summer movies.

In the more limited sense of U.S. cinema, my thoughts before turning to Google:

Before television, movies were produced and released in a constant flow. There were seasonal inflections caused by the advent of holidays such as Christmas. Whether release considerations went beyond that, I don’t know. But I doubt it.

With television came the concept of TV summer reruns. It may be that the studios regarded this fallow TV period as a time to introduce especially attractive movies. No data in my memory bank on this.

Also, in the late 50s and early 60s, the first baby-boomers entered their teen years. Hence, movies like Where the Boys are (1960) and the Funicello/Avalon beach-blanket movies, such as Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), were made. Perhaps these youth-targeted movies were introduced in the summer months. Could be wrong.

The summer movies that I’m considering here are seasonal offerings aimed at a youthish demo. Summer blockbusters are a whole different animal, from both marketing and genre perspectives, targeted even more tightly at the teen demo, with, also, the world market in mind. Summer blockbusters were invented with Jaws in 1975.

Finally, off the subject, I’m thinking of adults who are recently out of school and in the workforce and who now no longer have a clear concept of “summer,” as their year blends together for them with a vacation or two thrown in at arbitrary times – as opposed to youth free from school for several hopefully halcyon months. For such adults, if there were summer movies, perhaps now there aren’t, at least until kids of their own come along.

Turning to Google:

So much for my thoughts above. “Where the Boys Are” is a classic movie about summer, but its release date was three days after Christmas. “Beach Blanket Bingo” was released in April. So movies about summer and movies released in summer are two different things. Wet Hot American Summer (2001) came out in the summer. Random? Endless Summer (1966) was released in August in Japan. Ok. I know nothing about the relationship between “release” and “opening,” or why a movie would be released first in Japan. You can explain all this to me in a comment or guest post. Or not.

Now I’m thinking that there is no special seasonal-release category for summer movies (movies released in the summer), only for “summer blockbusters.”

There have not always been summer blockbusters. “Jaws” represents a change in Hollywood’s business model. Gone with the Wind (1939)  was released in January. Ben Hur (1959) in December. Old-fashioned blockbusters.

So, bottom line, there have not always been movies about summer  that were released specifically in summer; but there have always been movies about summer – a summer-movie genre. Let me see if I can turn up some titles from the 30s and 40s.  Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939). Summer Bachelors (1926). Say, here’s a summer-camp movie rated 8.9 in IMBD: Thrill of a Lifetime (1937), with Ben Blue, Judy Canova, and Betty Grable. Uh oh. Frank Nugent in the NYT: “You have, in point of accuracy, an insipid concoction of sour japes and flat romantics which Fanchon (of Fanchon & Marco) has strung together like one of her old stage shows at the Roxy.” Oh, well. Would movies about county fairs count?

Who could have guessed, back in the day, that the drive-in would go away. Sitting out under the stars on the benches in front of the concession stand, we automatically classified whatever we were watching as a summer movie.

Which brings me to a treasure trove of summer-movie lore: the page that is displayed when you Google “summer movie memories.” For example, seven New Yorker essays on the subject. Based upon this veritable landslide of summer-movie nostalgia, to mix my metaphors, there have always been summer movies.