HERE are 2 short pieces that I originally wrote for Paul D. Brazill’s blog but which I like and feel that readers of Fleshapoidfilms will enjoy!
(Photo above: Jim Thompson)
HOLLYWOOD ZOMBIFIED THE WORLD
In Hollywood the line between the living and the dead is permeable and many screenwriters exist in a zombified state, souls long gone, boney fingers tapping on keyboards as if guided by some unseen force, cranking out screenplays about zombies, something they know well.
Guys like John Fante, Jim Thompson, and Horace McCoy are good examples of cool novelists turned into Hollywood zombies. Booze, bad times, and producers stole their souls. Finally, a sense of artistic waste washed over them like listless waves carrying spent condoms sloshing ashore on the sands beneath the Santa Monica pier, dazzling lights spinning in the dark above.
Everyone’s favorite Hollywood zombie-writer is a fictional character in a film, a poor sap who ended up face down in a swimming pool. It’s not often that films are narrated by dead men, but in Sunset Boulevard, a zombified screenwriter tells the tale of how his last drops of precious bodily fluid had been drained by the flashy fangs of a zombie-vampire Hollywood actress demanding yet another rewrite. The next stop was a coffin shared with a dead pet monkey.
Billy Wilder co-wrote and directed Sunset Boulevard,which some argue is a horror film, not a film noir, and he also directed Double Indemnity, a true classic noir. Not one but two great writers contributed to the final product on that film, though one of them felt the other’s prose had a bad odor. Screenwriter Raymond Chandler, a brilliant but somewhat fussy man, wrote in a 1942 letter to the wife of his publisher, Alfred K. Knopf:“….Hammett is all right. Igive him everything…. But James Cain – faugh!Everything he touches smells like a billygoat…. Such people are the offal of literature, not because they write about dirty things, but because they do it in a dirty way. Nothing hard and clean and cold and ventilated.”
Hard, clean, cold, and ventilated is not what zombies like. They prefer stuffy, stinky, hot basements and box canyons where they can corner you. L.A. inspires tales of seediness and collapse because it’s a smelly, brutal, unventilated place where the air is only cold and clean way out over the ocean—offshore.
Writers tend to be thoughtful, quiet, reserved sorts, but L.A. is great for loud hustlers. You gotta be tough, fast, and vicious; and willing to suck ideas from the brains of writers and claim them for your own. It’s a city of mirrors, and illusions, and lies, where the best bullshitter wins if he doesn’t lose himself the way Chaplin does in the film The Circus when he runs into a funhouse room full of mirrors. (Welles used the same imagery in the super-sleazy noir, The Lady from Shanghai.) To make it, many have to be willing to hustle and steal like Sammy Glick does, lead character in What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg.
Oh, and don’t try to laugh Hollywood away once it’s zombified you. It’s the city where Jim Belushi died of an overdose in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont while in the midst of writing a screenplay for a film he was calling Noble Rot; where Richard Pryor caught on fire while freebasing; where Fatty Arbuckle worked as a director under another name after his career was ruined by a false accusation of murder; where Chaplin went through a miserable divorce from his teen bride Lita in which her lawyers did all they could to destroy his character.
The Los Angeles resident Aldous Huxley predicted a brave new world in which a wonder drug called Soma will make everyone zombie-like but mellow. Turns out that blockbuster film spectacles are Soma for the masses. Everyone is put to sleep by the razzle-dazzle of a thousand CGI deaths that sooth the savage souls of the zombies in the audience, all chuckling at decapitations, auto crashes, and exploding blood packs.
Literature is all about the importance of the individual soul, something zombies lack. Yet even great writers like Burroughs and Borges and Baudrillard say that in the labyrinth of the garden of forking paths of the book of sand of simulations of reality there is no reality, no soul, no individual– only the map, the simulation, the replica, the replicant. L.A. is where many thousands of people are engaged in creating seductive and entertaining simulations about zombies and replicants shuffling around, hungry for brains and souls. It’s a metaphor for real life in the modern world. It’s also a metaphor or working in Hollywood as a screenwriter.
The odd thing is, the more sleazy and horrific the whole thing is, the better the films about the place are. Here are some wonderful dark visions ofL.A.: Chinatown by Roman Polanski, Collateral by Michael Mann, Day of the Locust by John Schlesinger, The Big Lebowski by the Coen brothers, Ed Wood by Tim Burton, Mulholland Drive by David Lynch, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie by John Cassavetes, Pulp Fiction by Tarantino, Boogie Nights by Paul Thomas Anderson, Short Cuts by Robert Altman, and Bladerunner by Ridley Scott.
Los Angeles is bulldozed at night so a new movie set can replace it by dawn. You can run from your fate as a zombie but you can’t hide from the fake reality that L.A. has created for you that has replaced your own life by infiltrating your dreams, taking over your imagination. Don’t fight it, surrender. You’ll feel so much better once you’ve lost your soul and begun shuffling toward the cineplex or your computer keyboard, thinking only of zombies and longing for brains.
STRING THEORY AND SUPERSTARS
In his memoir called Life, Keith Richards let it be known that Mick Jagger has a tiny todger, a little piece of string.
This revelation runs contrary to the image of Jagger as a sex symbol. Jagger has had many exceptionally gorgeous sexual partners and has a thriving social life. With the Rolling Stones he is the star performer. Mick has also given some fine performances in films. On the other hand, Keith Richards tends to be in the shadows, Dragula strumming alone, his fingers a blur of activity when he performs a solo.
All evaluation of todger size by friends and colleagues is questionable for three reasons. First, todger viewing is a subjective experience. What we see is colored by how we feel, our mood, our intent when viewing. Second, there is the problem of the unreliable narrator because men viewing other men’s todgers may provide false reports out of a wish to be perceived as bigger and better. Third, real measurements must be taken when the todger is in full erection because the resting state of todgers is highly variable. Most todgers, no matter how small they look in repose or perhaps even shriveled by cold water, achieve the size of about five and one half inches to six and one half inches when erect.
Why all the excitement about todger size and the interest in reporting size? It may be because there is a general belief in human society that the bigger the todger, the more manly the man. Big todger, big dog. Alpha dog. Dominant. Powerful. A leader of men — thanks to his horse cock. His donkey dick. King Dong.
Bogart was said to have had a huge one. He was also considered a tough guy, an independent, a man who made all of his own decisions. However, an astute observer of Hollywood oppression, Louise Brooks, said otherwise as to his independence. She knew Bogart and Hollywood well, saw his situation more objectively, and wrote in an essay included in the book Lulu in Hollywood (1974): “Being myself a born loner, who was temporarily deflected from the hermit’s path by a career in the theater and films, I can state categorically that in Bogart’s time there was no other occupation in the world that so closely resembled enslavement as the career of the film star. He had self-determination only in this: he might or he might not sign a film contract. If he signed the contract, he became subject to those who paid his salary and released his films. If he did not sign the contract, he was no film star.”
So much for the idea that a big dong means one is an alpha dog.
There were few truly independent stars in Hollywood in the first sixty years of Tinseltown. Orson Welles tried to be, having been given a contract in his early twenties from RKO for three films that he would write, direct, star in, and for which he would have final cut. He was given this deal based on his astonishing achievements as a director and actor in theater and radio. An appearance on the cover of Time magazine helped too. Sadly, after Citizen Kane, it slipped away or was signed away.
There was, however, one man who had everything Welles did and more — Charlie Chaplin. A perfectionist, he controlled all aspects of production and thus had final cut, starred in his films, directed them, and was even the distributor. However, according to Welles and only Welles, the Little Tramp had a little willy.
This is where the subjective element comes in, and quantum physics. Both Heisenberg‘s famous Uncertainty Principle and String Theory indicate that when we observe subatomic particles, the viewer in some sense shapes the thing being viewed. The more we measure position, the less we know about momentum. A vibrating string or particle might be both matter and energy and exist in two places at one time. It might be longer or shorter or dart away unexpectedly, perhaps to another dimension. Just the fact of being observed changes the thing observed. The psyche of the viewer takes a role in the behavior of the things and energies in the universe.
Thus it’s notable that while Chaplin‘s willy was otherwise reputed to be a big one, Welles claimed that it was wee. This was reported in the 1985 authorized biography of Orson Welles by Barbara Leaming: “Once, when the two of them had gone to take a shower after they had been to the steamroom together, Orson witnessed what he called a ‘terrible embarrassment.‘ He inadvertently cast a glance in the direction of Chaplin’s genitalia, which reminded him of nothing so much as ‘a little peanut.’ (This eye-witness testimony of Orson’s is completely contrary to standard Hollywood legend that portrays Chaplin as unusually well endowed.)”
For Welles, Chaplin had a small peanut for a penis yet everyone else thought he had a big one. How do we account for this? String theory? The Uncertainty Principle? Quantum physics might help.
And thus we are back to Keith’s version Mick’s todger. In the Wallace Stevens poem ‘The Man with the Blue Guitar‘ a fellow complains that because another fellow has a blue guitar he does not play things as they are. The guitarist replies: “Things as they are are changed upon the blue guitar.” When you play guitar and strum vibrating strings, you change things to suit your fancy.
Perhaps it’s best to not think too much about the subject for too long and instead spend time watching relaxing films like Free Willy.