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‘How to Undress in Front of Your Husband’: The exact opposite of a feminist film
10:10 am



How to Undress in Front of Your Husband
The short film you’re about to take a look at is more than just a cheap, extraordinarily sexist exploitation film from 1937. Indeed, How to Undress in Front of Your Husband is most certainly that, but if you can put the stupidity of the attitudes expressed in the film aside momentarily, you’ll notice that it also happens to be surrounded by a bunch of weird, perhaps even interesting facts. Case it point: It involves the huckster distributer of Reefer Madness and his salacious screen writing wife, the film bears a mysterious similarity to a LIFE magazine article featuring photos of ex-burlesque stripper, June St. Clair made in the same year, one of the lead characters (such as there are characters) is the fourth wife of John Barrymore and the other lead character was an ahead-of-her-time suffragette.

I’m not a big fan of Internet lists, but I’m presenting the following one as a matter of expediency. Believe it or not, there’s a lot to cover here for a smutty little fourteen minute film.

1. How to Undress in Front of Your Husband is an exploitation film: To cut right to the chase, this movie is about a lecherous, camera-wielding Peeping Tom and two different women taking their clothes off in preparation for bed. According to the film’s male narrator, there is a right way and a wrong way for a woman to do this if she wants to properly entice her husband, and each woman demonstrates her pre-bed ritual as the narrator looks on through a key-hole. It’s really an awful flick, but notable if you’re interested in this particular fringe nook of filmmaking, truly the bottom of the creative barrel.
Reefer Madness Poster
A reproduction of an original Reefer Madness poster.
2. The Reefer Madness connection: How to Undress in Front of Your Husband was directed by Dwain Esper, the same fiendish mind who brought us everybody’s favorite joint-sploitation film, Reefer Madness along with Maniac, Sex Madness and Marihuana. Esper was a sleazy but fascinating persona. A serious snake-oil-salesman-type, he traveled around the country “four walling” his racy films in rented tents and theaters in order to work his way around the 1934 Production Code that wouldn’t allow his work to be distributed through conventional channels. In fact, the very title of the film may very well have been part of what was a typical strategy for Esper to get around movie censorship. By billing his screenings as “educational,” as in WE’RE HERE TO EDUCATE YOU ABOUT THE HORRORS OF OPIUM!!!!, he and others like him could attempt to pass off their salacious materials as important public service announcements. After taunting entire towns with tantalizing “Adults Only” promotions, Esper would screen whatever piece of smut he was pitching for a few days, count his money, pack up his gear and get himself the hell out of Dodge, preferably before the town’s morality police could do it for him.

Esper’s wife Hildegarde Stadie, herself an ex-carnival performer who in her younger years often posed nude with a python around her neck to entice people into buying her Uncle’s cure-all tonics, wrote How to Undress in Front of Your Husband as she did many others in the Esper repertoire. Neither of them actually wrote Reefer Madness, by the way. Esper simply bought the film, originally funded by a church group with the intention of legitimately steering people away from the deadly smoke. Esper realized how much of exploitative payday would come from screening the very bad but very “shocking” movie. You can read three Esper screenplays in Marihuana, Motherhood & Madness from 1998.
Dwain Esper
Cinemaniac Dwain Esper
3. The LIFE article: Interestingly, an article, also from 1937, appeared in the February 17th issue of LIFE magazine depicting almost the exact scenario of the Dwain Esper film and pictures from the article have circulated around the internet over the past few years. Promoting one Allen Gilbert who was ostensibly trying to get the word out about his “Manhattan School of Undressing,” the article shows two different women in the act of preparing for bed, one clumsily, the other, ex-burlesque stripper June St. Clair, gracefully. The conceit of the article is that because of rising divorce rates, women needed to place to go where they could learn to be more sensual when getting ready to slip into bed with their husbands. No mention is made of the husband’s role in the pre-bed ritual, although, due to reader demand and, in some cases, outrage, a subsequent issue of LIFE included an article with men in the same scenario. It seems almost impossible to imagine that the article and the film below weren’t somehow related, although I can find no evidence to substantiate that claim.
How to Undress
The right way for a woman to undress in front of her husband according to a 1937 article in LIFE magazine.
How not to undress
The wrong way for a woman to undress in front of her husband according to a 1937 article in LIFE magazine.
4. John Barrymore’s fourth wife: Yes, the lead role the film went to Elaine Barrie, alcoholic actor John Barrymore’s fourth wife at the time. Famously, a youthful Barrie (she had the last name of Jacobs at this point) kindled her relationship with Barrymore through a letter asking for an interview with the aging Svengali actor who was in the hospital attempting to dry up at the age of 53. Barrie continued to “interview” Barrymore, and the two eventually married in 1936. Their relationship was a press free-for-all (Barrie was 30 years younger than Barrymore and their relationship began when Barrymore was still married to his third wife) and the Espers were almost certainly capitalizing on her new-found national attention when they cast Barrie in the roll of the ideal wife in How to Undress in Front of Your Husband. The film’s narrator vocally ogles and hubba-hubbas his way through Barrie’s downright scandalous-for-1937 appearances in the film as she sensually quaffs her hair, applies pre-bed perfume, rolls down her stockings and shimmies out of her clothing while strategically never becoming completely nude. The purveyor of the pervy voiceover is of course pleased. “She not only knows how to get a husband, but how to keep him,” he says.

5. The suffragette: Last but not least, one of the most interesting things about this weird little piece is the appearance of former stage and vaudeville actress, Trixie Friganza. She plays the role of the not-so-sensual clothes remover; the representative of “how not to undress in front of your husband,” and the narrator says some truly vile things about her while she goes through her supposed pre-bed ritual. Really, it’s cringe–inducing and mean-spirited. Friganza, a large woman, seems to have made career out of poking fun at her own size, but she was also an outspoken women’s rights activist often using her public notoriety to speak about the arts and for economically downtrodden. She was progressive for the time, even keeping her maiden name and continuing to work after marrying in her early life, a fairly bold statement in the early 1900’s. Friganza’s on screen appearance in How to Undress in Front of Your Husband was one of her last, as she ended her film career in 1940 due to complications with arthritis. After a long career she died in relative obscurity in 1955.

So there you have it, everything I know about the oddball film. For better or for worse, here’s How to Undress in Front of Your Husband in all its schlocky glory.  It skips just a tad at the beginning, but extensive Internet searching yielded this as the best copy. 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
Leonard Nimoy Wants You To Live Long And Prosper: The ‘Y2K Family Survival Guide,’ 1999
09:56 am



The Y2K Family Survival Guide
On New Year’s Eve, 1999, the world was preparing for the worst. The Y2K problem had just about everyone on the edge of their seats—will there be power outages? Will water stop flowing from our taps?? Will planes fall from the sky?!? Will nuclear power plants malfunction and kill us all?!?! Will I have to poop outside? ‘Cause I ain’t poopin’ outside.

No one knew what was going to happen.

To address (or simply cash-in on) the concerns, a number of books and videos were issued on the subject, including the Y2K Family Survival Guide VHS, which was hosted by Leonard Nimoy (he also wrote the introduction for the book version). Here’s how the video was pitched:

The Y2K Family Survival Guide video is specifically designed to help you get ready for the local, national and international effects that may significantly impact the lives of your family, your community and your nation. All essentials are covered in this video, from how the Y2K dilemma began to what may happen after December 31, 1999, to what the average person can do now to survive short inconveniences or a long catastrophe.

The first half of the video features interviews with a variety of “experts,” from dudes that ran Y2K websites to the U.S. Y2K czar (yes, there actually was such a government position). Nimoy is shown telling us all the terrible things that might—or might not—happen, while images of fast-moving dark clouds and an assortment of dated graphics appear behind him.
Leonard Nimoy
The second half is dominated by a man by the name of Ted Wright, who explains all we’ll need to do to prepare for Y2K, including how we’ll use toilets without access to running water (I’m listening!). Wright has some good tips (and hey, we all should be somewhat prepared to go temporarily off the grid), but ends up coming off like a bit of a kook (he thinks the worst-case scenario will definitely happen). Naturally, he has his own guides to sell.
Ted Wright
As we know now, nothing major occurred when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000. Thankfully, the Y2K Family Survival Guide remains as a reminder of the hysteria. We Americans are especially prone to panic over the possibility of catastrophic events, so perhaps Mr. Nimoy’s video can serve as a tool for us. Maybe we won’t get so riled up the next time a potential disaster looms in the distance…Wait, we’ll have to go through this all over again in 2038?!?
How to Live Without Electricity
So, how much did you want for that chemical toilet?

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
Sparks, Christian girls, drugs & lemon meringue pie: Meet obscure new wavers Gleaming Spires
09:10 pm



Re-Dux album art work for
As much as the mainstream clamors for something truly unique and edgy, the minute they get it is the minute that they typically do not want it. It’s this cultural miasma where cult artists are born and a perfect example of this is the early 1980’s band, Gleaming Spires. The seeds of the Spires were first planted in a Los Angeles new wave rock band called Bates Motel, but it took the fertile ground of joining Sparks in 1981 to help sprout one of the better—albeit obscure—cult bands to have emerged out of the post-punk musical landscape.

While they were together for only handful of years, ending with 1985’s Welcoming a New Ice Age, new label Futurismo have been working with the two brilliant minds behind Gleaming Spires, vocalist and bassist Les Bohem and drummer David Kendrick on a re-release and remastering of their first album originally released on the legendary Posh Boy label, Songs of the Spires. Available as both a digital download, as well as 180 gram vinyl album (colored either lemon meringue or blue movie, depending on your preference), Songs of the Spires has never looked or sounded this good. It’s a pitch-perfect debut album with that mix of quirky humor, emotional angst and sonic layers that could have only come from the dynamic duo of Bohem and Kendrick.

So in honor of this release, here is an exclusive interview with the Spires themselves, the first since their final album in 1985.

What was the big inspiration early on to get into music? Was it anything encouraged or discouraged by your family?

Les Bohem: Well, I took guitar lessons when I was a kid – my mom’s family was deep into Pete Seeger and I saw him at a Unitarian church when I was maybe seven. I had a subscription to Sing Out and an older cousin who was very cool and knew about Bob Dylan. In fact, I can remember that we thought it was lame that Peter, Paul and Mary covered “Blowin In the Wind.” My first performance was said “Wind” at my grammar school graduation. Aldous Huxley was in the audience. He told my Mom I had a nice voice. This either means he was old and deaf, not paying attention, or was on Psilocybin.

The Beatles during my first year of Junior High and that was it. The Kinks, Them, the Stones, the Who – We did “Substitute” in my first band at the 8th grade talent show – American lyrics ‘cause we didn’t know any better. Then my folkie roots began to show and I wore striped T-shirts and a vest and glasses, which I didn’t need, so I could look like the Lovin’ Spoonful.

My mom was always forgiving and she tried hard to like what I was doing. My dad never really got it. I broke his heart a bit when I left college to become a rock star. Having both worked as writers in the movie business, they had a healthy suspicion of any career in the arts.

David Kendrick: Both of us had artistic families. My father was a sculptor. I won’t say I was “forced into music” but was definitely encouraged. I mean, I had a very loud drum set in my bedroom. I was in bands outside of school.

How did you two meet? What events led to the formation of Bates Motel?

Les Bohem: I formed Bates Motel with Bob Haag and Alan Slater somewhere around 77-78, and we added Bob Beland somewhere right after that. We had a drummer who was a friend of Alan and Bob Haag’s. He left to join another band and then Bob Beland left. We were playing around L.A. and I don’t remember how we put the word out for drummers. I feel like I’d met David once at the Troubadour before that. He wore funny shoes. He was the first really good drummer and still far and away the best that I have ever played with. I remember how good the songs sounded the first time we practiced with him. Alan was gone by now, by the way, since he formed another band, and we had added another guitar player, Dave “the Rave” Draves. He and Bob Haag were from Lancaster, a town about 60 miles into the desert from L.A. We practiced there in a studio space that was in an arcade, which had been owned by Judy Garland’s father. On the long drives up and back, David and I become friends quickly. We’d bring tapes of favorite songs. We’d talk about books, music. We were still young. We’d get heavy.

David Kendrick: Bates already existed. I joined after they fell for my lamppost drummer propaganda. I liked the film reference name too
Les Bohem playing behind the Mael Brothers. Note Ron's smile.
It’s been written that the Mael Brothers discovered you after becoming familiar with Bates Motel. Where you fans of Sparks beforehand?

Les Bohem: It all begins with a screenwriter named Bill Kerby. I liked their album covers but had only heard a few songs. David, I believe, was the bigger fan. In those days, there was no place to get espresso in Los Angeles and the thing that David and I really bonded over was espresso. I had been going to the Belgian Waffle stand at the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax for years to have coffee with Bill, a writer who I’d met through my friend Miranda when they were dating. So this actually all begins with Miranda. Anyways, I would meet Bill for coffee mornings. Then, in the Bates days, a whole bunch of us would go in the afternoons and we would see Ron and Russell, who hung out there most afternoons. It was a celebrity sighting. “Look, it’s those guys from Sparks.” After a while, we developed one of those nodding relationships. One day, I went over to their table. We were trying everything to get signed and I thought that maybe they’d produce us. I said, “You guys are supposed to be the fathers of New Wave, how about you come see your kids,” or something equally lame and gave them a flyer to a show we were doing at Blackies, a club in Santa Monica. They came. They did not want to produce us. They asked us to be their band.

More after the jump…

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
New boxed set reveals John Coltrane created ‘terror’ during final tour with Miles Davis, 1960
11:05 am



All of You: The Final Tour, 1960
In 1955, Miles Davis hired an up-and-coming musician named John Coltrane to play in his group. Over the next couple of years, the team-up produced some incredible music, but the personal relationship between the trumpeter/leader and the saxophonist was never steady. Backstage at a gig in the spring of 1957, Miles slapped Coltrane and then punched him in the stomach; Trane’s only response was to quit the band.

Coltrane returned to join Davis’ sextet later in the year, but during that short time away he had continued to make a name for himself as a group member, bandleader and recording artist in his own right. Trane played on Miles’ Kind of Blue (1959), now considered one of the cornerstones of the jazz genre, and accompanied Davis on a European tour in 1960, but mentally he was focused on his own music. Miles later admitted Coltrane “was ready to move out before we left.”
Kind of Blue
The spring 1960 European tour was spread out over twenty cities in nine countries. The new boxed set, All of You: The Last Tour, 1960 includes recordings from eight of those performances. Though the Quintet sounds fantastic as a unit, Coltrane’s solos are so unusual they caused quite a stir at the time. Kind of Blue is a lovely record that is also easy on the ears, but Trane was doing his best to make this music sound ugly.

Journalist Frank Tenot witnessed the first show of the tour in Paris: “People were very surprised why there was no John Coltrane like on Kind of Blue. So, part of the audience thinks that Coltrane doesn’t play too well, that he was playing the wrong notes, involuntarily.” Tenot went backstage after the show to tell the saxophonist, “You’re too new for the people… you go too far.” Coltrane just smiled and said, “I don’t go far enough.”

Other critics who witnessed the shows wished that Trane had held back. One reporter called his solos “scandalous,” and wrote that they “bore no relationship whatsoever with playing the saxophone.” Another writer was so horrified he equated Coltrane’s solos with the very concept of “terror.”
Trane in pain
As the leader, Davis takes the first solo during every song on these recordings, and as much as I dig Miles—his solo turns are as interesting and as exquisite as ever—after a couple of tracks, I found myself waiting for Coltrane to step up and blow me away. And he would do just that. Every time. It’s fascinating to hear him push the material—and thus, the band—especially as this was Miles’ group, not his. The fact that we now know he had mentally moved on from his role with Davis, as well as facing negative reactions to his output, only makes listening to these tracks all the more absorbing.
John Coltrane and Miles Davis
The Miles Davis Quintet returned to the states on April 11th, and it wouldn’t be long before Coltrane would make his exit. By then, Trane had made a name for himself and was well on his to becoming one of the titans of jazz.
John Coltrane
Some of the recordings on the boxed set are taken from radio broadcasts, while others were captured privately by audience members. Initially, my expectations were somewhat low as far as the fidelity of these live tapes—which date from over a half century ago—but aside from a couple of muddy sounding tracks and occasional issues with how the musicians were mic’d, the sound quality ranges from very good to surprisingly great. Hear for yourself, as we have an exclusive preview track, an up tempo version of “So What,” recorded in Stockholm, Sweden on March 22nd, 1960. The faster beat and Trane’s dissonant solo result in something excitingly different than the subdued mood created for the familiar Kind of Blue version. Enjoy.

All of You: The Last Tour, 1960 will be released on December 2nd.

Here’s a 1959 TV clip of “So What” played at a pace that more closely resembles the one found on Kind of Blue, but with Coltrane beginning to stretch, feeling his way towards the type of solos he would play on his final tour with Miles:


Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
He’s gonna booglarize you, baby: Hear an amazing unreleased Captain Beefheart song
12:27 pm




“Art is rearranging and grouping mistakes.”
—Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart

It’s been said many times before, but Captain Beefheart was truly one of the great musical minds. Don Van Vliet mixed rock, jazz and blues to create his own brand of music that was a kind of avant rock. The Captain’s songs might’ve sounded chaotic, but they were actually painstakingly precise. Some of them were even catchy!
Sun Zoom Spark
Rhino’s new Beefheart boxed set, Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972, comes out November 17th, and includes the three albums that followed his groundbreaking double LP, Trout Mask Replica (1969), as well as a disc of previously unreleased outtakes. The CD of outtakes is enough to excite any Captain Beefheart fan, but the album that immediately followed Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970) has been out-of-print for years, and is just as essential as Trout Mask—even more so, dare I say.

Both Lick My Decals Off, Baby and the Captain himself nearly passed me by. The first Beefheart album I bought was a vinyl reissue of Trout Mask Replica—a legendary and revered release, and one of the strangest records to ever be labeled “rock.” But I just didn’t get it. I was a big fan of Frank Zappa (Don’s friend, closest musical comparison, and producer of TMR), but I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I set it aside, figuring I would give it another chance down the road.
Zappa and the Captain
Zappa and the Captain

A couple of years later, I though I’d give a different CB record a try, and picked up the reissue of Lick My Decals Off, Baby—and I couldn’t get enough of it. I would blast those tunes on my drive to the retail gig I had at the time, and it was comforting to listen to something so wonderfully stupefying before I had to re-join the world of normal people. For years, this was the only Beefheart album I felt I needed, and it would be a decade before I got into (and fell for) his late period records, Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (1978). I wouldn’t fully grasp Trout Mask Replica until after Don passed in 2010. I still prefer Decals. As it turns out, I’m not the only one:

You put on Lick My Decals Off, Baby, and at first it’s what the fuck…Then there are songs you would immediately dig, like ‘I Love You, You Big Dummy.’ Crazy, abstract, but still friendly, you know. Trout Mask would be hard to listen to for someone who didn’t know his music, but Decals, you find out it’s not quite as spooky…Once you get it, that connection, you feel closer to him. You feel this good-hearted, caring human being.
—David Hidalgo of Los Lobos


For his next album, The Spotlight Kid (1972), Van Vliet made a conscious effort to make his music more appealing to the masses. The record is a bluesy affair, and while it’s consistent, it doesn’t seem to find the Captain particularly inspired. Having said that, there are a few stellar tracks, including “Blabber ‘n Smoke,” a fantastic song that contains the Captain’s most humane lyric ever (“Clean up the air and treat the animals fair.”). Ultimately, the album wasn’t commercially successful. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, and a big Beefheart fan, sums up The Spotlight Kid: “You can’t call it conventional, but it certainly was friendlier.”
Clear Spot shirt
Clear Spot followed later that same year. The album is a schizophrenic mix of material, as if Don wasn’t sure which road he wanted to head down next. Some songs are similar in feel to the ones found on The Spotlight Kid, yet have more of the Captain’s distinctive sonic stamp. Lots of significant stuff here, including the absolutely transcendent “Big Eyed Beans From Venus,” but there are a couple of songs (“Crazy Little Thing” and “Long Neck Bottles”) that are so dumbed-down you can hardly believe this is the same artist. Fans may have accused Beefheart of attempting to cash-in during this period, but if “Too Much Time” is a sell-out, then it’s the greatest sell-out song of ALL TIME. It’s an awesome soul number that shoulda been hit.

The outtakes disc covers material recorded during The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot eras. It’s a fascinating compilation, as it includes early versions of tracks that would turn up on later albums, and it also features songs that are otherwise unavailable. A few are instrumentals, so the focus is on the gargantuan talents of the Magic Band, the rotating group of incredible musicians the Captain assembled. Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase here: This collection has to be one of the best outtakes discs ever assembled. This shit just (blabbers and) smokes, and the sound quality is top-notch. You can hear what I mean for yourself, as we have an exclusive preview of one of the oh-so-sweet previously unreleased tunes, “Two Rips in a Haystack”/“Kiss Me My Love.”

“I am my own artist,” Van Vliet once stated. “I like to listen to music, but I won’t trace.” Perhaps that’s the rationale for why Captain Beefheart wasn’t commercially successful, but it’s also just happens to be the reason fans continue to love his work. There was truly no one else like him.

Below, the television commercial for Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Yes, there was a TV commercial!

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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