40 psyche-pop tunes serve as the soundtrack for the extremely wacky Santa Claus (aka Santa Claus vs. The Devil) in a special Holiday mix from me to you.
The trailer narration of Santa Claus gives you a rough idea of the bizarreness that awaits the viewer:
Whether you’re in a cave, or behind a million mountains, Santa Claus sees you through his Master Eye, and invites you to his Magic Wonderland! See Santa Claus in his magic motion picture! Come past the doors of his towering castle, into a fantastic crystal laboratory, filled with weird and wonderful secrets; into his heavenly workshop, the most marvelous toy factory of all! Watch his battle with the mischievous demon who wants to get children into trouble! You’d better watch out!
There are so many disturbing elements to Rene Cardona’s film that it’s difficult to select just one. Advertised as “an enchanting world of make-believe”, it’s a surreal battle between Father Crimbo and Satan, who sends his minion, Pitch, to interfere in the spreading of comfort and joy. Prime nuggets? Pitch whispering to the young ‘uns that Santa’s actually a murderer (classy!) and Santa’s cloud-borne castle that looks less like a cheery base for making toys and more like something from a Bond villain’s architectural wet dream.
Enjoy the music. I don’t think you’ll miss the dialog. Happy Holidays.
01. “Is Anybody Home” - The Mirage
02. “Henry Adams” - The Frederic
03. “Princess Of The Gingerland” - Glitterhouse
04. “Travelling Circus” - The Epics
05. ‘Punch And Judy Man” - Pop Workshop
06. “Red, White And You” - Sounds Around
07. “The View” - Gary Walker and The Rain
08. “Tomorrow Today” - Kippington Lodge
09. “You’ll Find Me Anywhere” - Hi-Revving Tongues
10. Mix within the mix featuring The Groop, The Kinks,
The Tages, The Exceptions, The Cyrkle, Frank Zappa,
The Zombies, Mark Eric, The Sidewalk Skipper Band,
The Beach Boys, Stained Glass, The Shaggy Boys,
Free Design, Eternity’s Children, Summer Snow,
The Counts, Johnny Cobb and The Attractions,
The Family Tree (courtesy of FCR)
11. “What Are You Gonna Do” - The Summer Set
12. “Stop” - The Pan Pipers
13. “My Race Is Run” - The Motleys
14. “Buses” - The Hung Jury
15. “Alfred Appleby” - The Carnival Connection
16. “You Gotta Be With Me” - The Onyx
17. “Midnite Thoughts” - The World Column
18. “In The Land Of Make Believe” Jennifer’s Friend
19. “Walk In The Sky” The Crackerjack Society
20. “Your Way To Tell Me Go” - Plastic Penny
21. “Green Circles (Italian version)” - The Small Faces
Todd Loren published the “proudly unauthorized” and totally demented Rock N’ Roll Comics until 1995 when the double whammy of the 32-year-old Loren being stabbed to death and the company’s bankruptcy brought the enterprise to an unceremonious end. Loren’s death is shrouded in mystery. Rumor has it that he was taken out by the same serial killer who murdered Gianni Versace. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The fascinating 2005 documentary The Story of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics explores Loren’s publishing empire and his death. I heartily recommend it. But I’m not focusing on that compelling bit of history here. I just want to share some totally amusing Rock N’ Roll Comics cover art.
Swirling in that visual vortex of the “so bad they’re good” category, Rock N’ Roll Comics (and its brother-in-arms Hard Rock Comics) have a certain schlock appeal that veers from the earnestly awful to inspired satire. I remember R N’ R Comics radiating from the racks of New York City newsstands. Seering themselves into my eyeballs, these covers were as ridiculously over-the-top as the smorgasbord of porno cheesiness they shared the racks with: Screw Magazine, Sluts And Slobs, Chocolate Singles, Ramrod and Honcho. This was the tail end (see what I did there) of New York’s grandly grungy era when the streets were still throbbing (see there, I did it again) with the uninhibited impulses of the beast in all of us.
Even in the early nineties, Rock N’ Roll Comics seemed seriously dated but that’s part of what makes them so damned special. I would love to see White Stripes, Kanye, Beyoncé, Daft Punk and Radiohead getting the Rock N’ Roll Comics treatment today.
60 plus issues of Rock N’ Roll Comics were published,. Here are my picks of the best/worst covers. Among them, the Ayn Rand inspired “Elvis Shrugged” gets a special shoutout as does the “Tipper Gore’s Comics and Stories” issue (Jello loved it and Dead Kennedys got their own issue, too). The incredibly goofy Botoxy, lip-injectioned Ramones (poor Joey looks like a mashup of Pete Burns and Kellyanne Conway) was intended to please but I’m rather certain that Joey stuck that issue under a pile of his MAD magazine collection.The “Women In Rock” issue was responsible for Andrea Dworkin’s umpteenth hernia when she picked up a stack on the corner of 13th and 2nd and tried to hurl them at a Pakistani delivery boy she mistook for Janet Jackson. The contenders for the absolutely worst covers are David Bowie looking like Rachel Maddow after she took a very long bath in hydrogen peroxide and the one where Bob Dylan is doing his impression of Montgomery Clift doing his impression of Gloria Swanson. The Grateful Dead edition was a sales flop but the cover was a hit (again I did it) having been licked to the point of invisibility by heads mistaking it for a sheet of blotter acid. Overnight, racks of Grateful Dead Comics looked like blurred X-rays with corners curling like the paper mudras of paper monks.
Special mention goes to Nirvana for tapping into their audiences’ fundamental fears and anxieties. Nirvana stood out for their unbridled celebration of teen spirit when the band courageously defied their handlers and boldly sported facial boils verging on detonation. These pus-filled flesh flags of honor were symbols of a society so toxic that only rock and roll and a pair of tweezers could exorcise the demons embedded in the souls of our society’s youth. This was acne as action, the beginning of the Blackheads Matter movement that aroused white kids from their complacent suburban wombs. To Love the smell of Clearasil in the morning is to be young and alive. This was the roots of Pusy Power and the beginning of the dead leucocytes movement.
Christian McLaughlin, a Los Angeles-based TV writer/producer and the self-described “poster concierge” behind the online movie poster store WestgateGallery.com, is my new best friend. We’ve never actually met in person, but I do enjoy knowing that someone is out there who is impossible for ME to stump. Everything I mention to him over email, he already knows about. I suggested, for instance, that he watch the utterly batshit insane British soap opera Footballers Wives. Not only had he already seen all the episodes—and the spinoff series—he was pals with one of the cast members. Then he told me about a newer “women in prison” show from the same producers called Bad Girls that I’d never even heard of, and co-starring the main “evil bitch” actress from Footballers Wives as the same character she’d played in that earlier series who was now in prison!!! I sent him a link to an eBay listing for a poster for an Andy Warhol movie with Karl Lagerfeld and Patti D’Arbanville from 1973 that had somehow completley slipped by me and not only did he know all about it, he was selling the poster in his store.
I asked Christian to pen a guest post for DM about how he got started collecting movie posters and about why he’s now selling his incredible collection. This is what he sent me:
“OBSESSION” and “HOARDING” are such ugly words. So let’s pretend they don’t apply here. I was three years old when I scored my first movie poster (The House That Dripped Blood US 1 sheet), a freebie—but when you’re three, what isn’t? My favorite stop on the frequent walks with my grandfather in Fort Kent, ME, was the Century Theatre, where I’d stare at the two posters (Now Playing & Next Attraction) on display in glass cases outside the box office, lingering as long as possible whenever there was horror involved. I was so taken by the one-sheet cooked up by Cinerama Releasing Corp for a British anthology chiller starring Peter Cushing & Ingrid Pitt, I’m told I requested extra walks for a few bonus peeps at its lurid majesty, which features a long-haired beauty, the middle third of her face a toothy swath of bare skull, holding a man’s severed head on a tray. One fateful afternoon on what had to be one of the final days of the run, theatre-owner Gilberte spotted us and came out to greet her dear friend (my grandfather) and his unnervingly precocious towheaded, rambling companion (me). Apparently I then asked if I could have the poster when she was done with it. Charmed or shocked, or both, she said yes, and soon after delivered this treasure to my grandparents’ door, thoughtfully enclosed in a stiff cardboard envelope, wrapped in a thin blue plastic shopping bag.
Dissolve to Hollywood, California, 43 years later. I still owned that poster—and roughly 2999 others. My taste for horror was completely intact, but it had broadened to encompass all manner of salacious and macabre pieces of original movie art from a dozen countries, ranging from 13"x18” French petites to a ten by five foot 6-panel Italian billboard for the spectacularly sleazy 1975 Giallo trash epic Strip Nude For Your Killer (which I had foraged piece by piece from a mouse-infested pit of paper beneath a Roman antique shop in the shadow of the fun-hating cinephobic Vatican itself). Finally allowing myself to splurge on linen-backing and archival framing to display the billboard and nine other large-format Italian Giallo posters with the panache they deserved, I had a moment of clarity while narrowing my Top 50 down to the ten I could fit on my home and office walls: I could have five homes, two offices and an unlimited restoration and framing budget and I’d barely make a dent in this outrageously massive, meticulously archived collection. 3000 movie posters?! I was out of my fucking mind.
The only sins I believe in were the ones overheated copywriters brazenly trumpeted across hundreds of these very posters, but if I’d remained in Fort Kent long enough for the Catholic church to wash my brain to their strict local cleanliness standard, I’d have a new sin for the popular Mortal category—- allowing these amazing, beautiful pieces of Pop Art to languish in storage, when they all belong on walls, rolled-out or completely unfolded, to be enjoyed daily by like-minded connoisseurs of the salacious and the macabre. Like one of those no-kill pet shelters everyone with a heart should lavish with donations, I was determined to find good, loving homes for all of them. (And attempt to recoup a reasonable return on my what-I’m-too-terrified- to-actually-calculate-but-must-be-high-six-figures-minimum investment.) So, two years ago, with the brilliance of friends/design-photography mavens Paul Ahern, Barry Morse & Beth Hall, WestgateGallery.com was born. Named after my childhood porn theatre in Bangor, ME, whose painfully cropped ads in the local paper were my entree into the delectable poster paradise of the XXX Golden Age, this webstore answers Stevie Nicks’ question in a certain chart-topping Fleetwood Mac song:
Glasgow 1951. Exterior night. A busy city street. Fogbound. Trams and buses gridlocked—their windows steamy, yellow-lit, blurred faces peering out into the darkness.
Inside one of the buses—a mother and daughter. The girl is about three years old. She is happy, singing quietly. The bus halts. People onboard groan frustratedly, complain about getting home. The girl looks at her mother. She wriggles free and stands in the middle of the lower deck of the bus. The girl is Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie. She starts to sing. She has the voice of a “nuclear reactor” with the face of an angel. The passengers on the bus are enthralled. They can’t believe this tiny child has such a powerful voice. Marie belts out one song after another. The traffic starts to move. The passengers applaud and throw coins. This is Lulu’s first experience of fame.
Glasgow 1962: Exterior twilight. W/S of cranes and ships along the River Clyde and docks. The evening sky is bright orange. The buildings sparkle with the light from tenement windows. There’s a sound of distant traffic—blue trains rattling to the suburbs.
Interior Night: The Lindella Nightclub. Blue wisps of cigarette smoke, tables along one side of room, a bar with a scrum of customers, eager to get drunk, happy to be out for the night. Backstage - a band, The Gleneagles, are ready to go on. They can hear the audience getting restless. The bass player asks if everything is okay? Over the sound system, the voice of the compere introduces the band. This is it. A ripple of applause, a rush, then the band is on stage.
At the rear, a young girl, who looks hardly in her teens, her hair bright red, sprayed with lacquer, and rolled in curlers. She has a cold, but smiles, and looks confident. She holds a beret in her hand—wondering of she should wear it or not. The girl goes on stage. A pause. There’s feedback from the speakers. She checks with the band. The audience are getting uneasy. There are mutters, snide comments (“Away back to school, hen”) and sense of menace. Now fourteen years old, Marie Lawrie is about to change her life. The band are ready. Marie starts to sing.
The voice is incredible. Little Richard, Jerry Lewis and The Isley Brothers all rolled into this tiny redhead at the front of the stage.
At the back of the room—a woman stands slightly away from the crowd. She is mesmerized by the young girl’s performance. The audience that were about to riot are now lapdogs to this girl. The woman is Marion Massey—she is an agent—and she has just found her biggest act.
Lulu: (V/O) When I was fourteen, I was very lucky. I was discovered - to use a terrible term - by a person who was absolutely sincere. Since I was five, people had been coming up to me saying: “Stick with me, baby, and I’ll make you a star.” In fact, nobody ever did anything for me. Then Marion came along.
CU of Marion watching Lulu perform.
Marion Massey: (V/O) She looked so peculiar that first time I saw her. Her hair was in curlers underneath a fur beret. She had a terrible cold, was very pale and wore three jumpers. But I was very intrigued by her. There was something tremendously magnetic about this girl. I knew she had the makings of a great star.
London, 1964. Interior Day: Lulu performs on television.
London 1965. Interior Day—a busy press conference. Behind a table covered with microphones sits Lulu with a vigilant Marion Massey. Cameras flash, TV crews jostle for best coverage, journalists talk over each other, shout their questions.
Reporter One: With all this success are you rich?
Lulu: I get £10 a week pocket money. I get through about £5 a week on taxis alone. They’re terribly expensive in London, but I don’t know my way about well enough to take buses and the only time I went on the tube by myself I got lost…
Reporter Two: What do you spend your money on?
Lulu: Shoes are my weakness, I’ve got eight pairs going at the moment plus two that have just about had it.
Reporter Three: Where are you staying?”
Lulu: At Aunt Janey’s.
Marion Massey: My Mother’s.
Lulu: Auntie Janey’s a wonderful cook. She does gefilte fish, boiled or fried.
Reporter One: Do you like it?
Lulu: Yes. I like it fried. (Pause) With ketchup.
Reporter Four: What’s going to be your next hit?
Interior Night: Lulu comes off-stage having finished singing “The Boat That I Row”. She is approached by writer and film director James Clavell—author of Shōgun.
James Clavell: That was wonderful.
Lulu: Thank you.
(Lulu is surrounded by fans who ask for autograph. The fans disperse happy with their prized signature. Lulu turns to Clavell.)
Lulu: Are you wanting an autograph?
James Clavell: No, no. I just want to tell you…that er…well…You’ve got the part.
Lulu: What are you on about? What part?
James Clavell: I’m doing this feature film and I want you to be in it.
Lulu: Aye, right. Your patter’s pish by the way.
James Clavell: No seriously, you’ve got the part.
Cut to: Footage of Lulu in from To Sir, With Love.
More hits and scenes from Lulu’s legendary life, after the jump…
Many are called. Most end up in the bargain bin of the local thrift store. For all the great bands like Fanny, The Slits, L-7, The Go-Gos, The Bangles, and so on, there are several dozen—nay, several hundred—who score one hit (or fewer) and then disappear before the ink’s dried on their record contracts.
Then there are bands like these—who manage the record deal, have the hit single and even go on to produce a handful of albums—sometimes well received albums.
These are the sometimes forgotten girl bands of the 1970s-1980s who may have looked like they took their style from a lycra catalog but actually had greater success and in some instances a greater influence on other bands than is recognized….or should I say, admitted.
For example, the Love Machine (above) were originally dancers on the Benny Hill Show and not to be ocnfused with the Italian Love Machine. The Love Machine were one-hit wonders like that other notorious dance group Hot Gossip—who had a major hit with “Starship Trooper.”
Phantom Blue—Heavy Metal band who released four albums between 1986-1997.
The Orchids were a rock/pop/New Wave formed and managed by Kim Fowley—they never quite managed the heights of The Runaways.
The following is an edited version of an article I wrote on Dangerous Minds back in 2012 when Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan, the then-new biography of the poet, was published. I felt I couldn’t improve upon it so am sharing it again in a different context, as a preamble to this new video I put together of footage I’d never seen before of Richard Brautigan. This is an excerpt from a documentary about The Summer Of Love which was broadcast on the Canadian TV series The Way It Is in 1967. There is very little Brautigan on film, so for fans of the bard of San Francisco this is a short, but sweet, visit with one of our great countercultural heroes.
Richard Brautigan, Jack Kerouac and The Doors were my saviors in the year of the Summer Of Love. I was stuck in the suburbs of Virginia, surrounded by jocks and greasers, mostly always alone in my room full of beatnik books, magical vinyl and a meerschaum pipe full of banana peel. It was the year I read Brautigan’s second book Trout Fishing In America and the year that I left home for San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury.
Those were the days when a book or a record album could change your life. If literature had a Beatles, his name was Richard Brautigan. It comes as no surprise that John Lennon was a Brautigan fan. They both had a whimsical point of view that started in the square inch field and expanded into the cosmos.
In 1968, I lived inside of a parachute inside of a dance hall in a ghost town near Los Gatos, California. It was my summer of In Watermelon Sugar. I read that book like a preacher reads the Bible. It was my new testament. Brautigan’s poems and prose had this uncanny ability to gently slap you upside the head while disappearing into what is being described. In Watermelon Sugar was Brautigan’s river Tao, a sweet subtle liquid that flowed through the pink flesh of our being.
William Carlos Williams famously wrote “no ideas but in things” and embodied that thought in poems like “The Red Wheelbarrow.” Brautigan wrote from a similar point of view - a kind of American Zen that was ordinary and transcendental, modern and prophetic…
I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
like pure water
touching clear sky.
For many of us, Brautigan was a door into a consciousness that was liberating in its playfulness and here and nowness. Reading Brautigan is like taking a pure hit of oxygen. Things sparkle. There is a sense of boundless delight and eroticism in his prose and poetry - a promise of the unspeakable, where language transcends itself.
Titled “Michael,” this oil painting by David Nordahl depicts Jackson as Michelangelo’s David surrounded by cherubs.
In April 2009, just two months before Michael Jackson’s sudden and unexpected death, Julien’s Auctions hosted a four-day public exhibition of 1,390 personal items from Neverland Ranch at the abandoned Robinsons-May department store in Beverly Hills. The exhibit was a fascinating look into the King of Pop’s personal treasures: from his iconic white-jeweled glove to a wonderland of 19th-century antiques and sculptures. One couldn’t help but notice the high volume of utterly bizarre works Michael Jackson had commissioned just for him: A life-sized statue of himself as Batman, a custom hand-painted Beverage-Air cooler, and a custom golf cart featuring an image of himself as Peter Pan painted onto the hood. However, what stood more than anything else was the exotic menagerie of oil paintings and murals of the pop star. Over many years Jackson paid dozens of artists to immortalize himself and his fairy-tale worldviews on canvas in scenes that depicted him as a figure of modern-day royalty in mythical tableaux. Where did Michael Jackson find the artists to help him amass such an insane collection of vanity? Why did somebody who was never satisfied with his looks spend millions of dollars to have his portrait painted?
Céline Lavail’s 1998 “Peter Pan” Neverland Ranch golf cart painting (from Julien’s Auctions Michael Jackson Exhibition catalogue).
Summer 2003, Leon Jones, a self-taught artist from Buena Park was airbrushing portraits of celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Jennifer Lopez, and Tupac Shakur on the sidewalk outside Café Tu Tu Tango at Universal Citywalk. A strange gentleman approached and asked if he was available to do some work for “his boss.” Jones was skeptical but agreed to meet the man at a gas station in Santa Barbara two days later after being persuaded by $500 in cash. Leon Jones and his nephew then followed the man through Los Olivos, CA, and were amazed when their final destination was revealed: Michael Jackson’s extremely secluded Neverland Ranch. Jones was then commissioned by Jackson to paint two, 15-feet-high murals at the Neverland train depot which took him several months to complete. One of the murals depicted Jackson in knight’s armor donning angel wings and the other showed Jackson surrounded by winged children pointing toward the heavens. “It was unreal, like you were on a different planet,” Jones said of his experience.
47-year-old American painter David Nordahl randomly received a phone call from Michael Jackson at his home in Santa Fe late one evening in early 1988. He thought it was a prank at first, but Jackson convinced the artist it was really him after describing a painting of Nordahl’s he had just seen in Steven Spielberg’s office earlier that day. After their initial hour-long conversation, Jackson invited him to the Denver stop of the Bad tour in March 1988 and soon after a partnership was formed: Nordahl left the commercial art world to become Jackson’s personal portraitist. Over the next seventeen years this creative collaboration resulted in thousands of drawings and roughly a dozen large-scale commissions. Jackson spent millions of dollars paying artists like Nordahl to transform his surreal and mythological ideas into fantasy art.
“The Storyteller” Nordahl shows Jackson as a Peter Pan-like figure surrounded by children including his sister Janet who is depicted as a fairy.
In Nordahl’s “Field of Dreams” Michael leads children of all nationalities (including sister Janet, AIDS activist Ryan White, actor Macaulay Culkin, and Pippi Longstocking).
Jackson paid up to $150,000 for the larger pieces and began referring to David Nordahl as his “favorite living artist” (Michelangelo being his favorite artist historically). Nordahl became a close friend, trusted adviser, and confidant who helped design Neverland Ranch carnival rides and joined Jackson for family trips to Disneyland. In 2004, Jackson and his children paid Nordahl a surprise visit on memorial day weekend, dropping by his Santa Fe home on their plush private bus. Jackson suggested a movie outing. “I thought we were going to a screening room,” Nordahl says. “His driver pulled into DeVargas Mall. He was friends with Roland Emmerich (the director of The Day After Tomorrow), and it was opening weekend. The mall was jammed, and there was no place to park. I took the kids, got the tickets and popcorn, and we went in. Michael came in after the lights went down. The lights came up, and nobody noticed him. He had on a baseball cap and these Chinese silk pajamas.”
Portsmouth-based portrait artist Ralph Wolfe Cowan painted Michael Jackson four times around 1993. The pop star bought the first portrait and then commissioned and paid for three more shortly after that. Cowan’s first abstract portrait depicted Jackson wearing a suit of armor, holding a sword with a parrot perched on top of it. Bubbles, Jackson’s pet monkey, was portrayed sitting loyally at his feet. After the first image of the portrait was sent to Jackson’s staff Cowan received back a strange, long-relayed message. “When I painted it, I had these dogs down in the bottom somewhere. German shepherds. Michael Jackson called up his curator, who called the guy at the gallery, who called my business manager Steve (Mohler), and Steve told me Michael didn’t want the dogs in there,” Cowan recounted. Extremely confused, Cowan insisted he hears from Jackson himself. Soon after, Cowan got a call. “Hello, this is Michael. I don’t like dogs,” he said in a soft, gentle voice. “I like monkeys.” Jackson paid about $30,000 for the 8-foot-tall painting, sans the dogs, which he hung in a living room beside his piano and can be seen in the background of Jackson’s well-known 1993 televised living room interview with Oprah Winfrey. Eventually, their working relationship deteriorated. Cowan explained how painting for Michael Jackson was really like working for a king. “He lived in a fantasy world and if he didn’t like something, you felt as if he could behead you. But the way he does it is by not calling you again. And somewhere along the line he stopped calling me and I thought I had been beheaded.”
Tomorrow marks the centennial of the birth of the ultimate horror film fanboy, Forrest J Ackerman, best known for being the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, who was born on November 24th, 1916. He’s also responsible for coining the term “sci-fi ,” was the literary agent for some of the biggest science fiction writers of that genre’s original golden age, and the creator of the dead sexy Vampirella comic book heroine (who was based on Danger Diabolik actress Marisa Mell as he told me once himself).
It was Ackerman’s boundlessly enthusiastic championing of fantasy and horror movies in the pages of Famous Monsters that saw his influence spread over a generation or two of America’s most dedicated monster movie nerds. You might say that he was a slightly pervy avuncular patron saint of the freaks and geeks of the 1960s and 70s. Many of his avid readers—like Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro and Rick Baker—grew up to make movies themselves and his home in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles saw visits from famous faces running the gamut from director John Landis to Ogre from Skinny Puppy. The Sci-Fi Boys, a 2006 documentary, was made about the many filmmakers who were inspired by Forry Ackerman.
In 1982, Ackerman—an avid punster and devote of the corniest of jokes—told the Los Angeles Times that he came up with the term “sci-fi” after hearing a radio ad extolling the virtues of high fidelity audio:
“My wife and I were listening to the radio, and when someone said ‘hi-fi’ the word ‘sci-fi’ suddenly hit me. If my interest had been soap operas, I guess it would have been ‘cry-fi,’ or James Bond, ‘spy-fi.’ “
The Ackermonster—or “Dr. Acula” as he was also known—represented such literary luminaries as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont and A.E. Van Vogt. He was also the agent for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and although Forry was not a Scientologist himself, was someone the notoriously paranoid Hubbard trusted throughout his life.
And then there was his magnificent collection of sci-fi and horror memorabilia, easily the best in the world. Ray Bradbury called it “the Fort Knox of Science Fiction.” Forry gave weekend tours of the collection, opening his 18-room home—dubbed the Ackermansion—to the public and showing off treasures like the stop motion models used in King Kong. Or a life-sized Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Forry owned Bela Lugosi’s ring, which he wore, and also the actor’s Dracula cape. One of Johnny Eck’s outfits. Just imagine the most insanely iconic stuff from classic horror and sci-fi films and he lived among it. Forry had all the good stuff and it was a ridiculous tragedy when the city of Los Angeles declined to take conservatorship of his collection when he offered it to the city in the 90s. Instead the collection was sold off piecemeal over the years, some of it going to Seattle’s Science Fiction Hall of Fame, some to a museum in Berlin and some to Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
At first I was like “meh” when I heard about a “hipster” nativity scene for the holidays. That was, until I actually saw it. I have to admit I laughed out loud. It’s pretty darn clever. I mean, the three wise men on Segways bearing gifts from Amazon!? Too perfect. One of these generic “individuals” even has a waxed mustache. Nice detail.
And Mary. Mary holding a cup of Starbucks next to baby Jesus while making a pursed-lip duck face for their selfie. Now I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but Mary looks like she’s on some type of opiate as well. Just look at her blissfully beatific expression! She clearly needs that frappuccino just to keep her eyes open.
Lastly, I giggled at the knitted sweater on the sheep. Because sheep in sweaters is actually a thing. And it’s dumb. And it’s so very, very 2016.
The hipster nativity scene can be purchased here for $129.99.
Louisville, Kentucky, circa 1982: my best friend and I spent a lot of time exploring the woods on our walks home after school. One fateful day we stumbled upon a not-so-hidden cache of adult magazines which blew our Catholic grade-school minds. I still remember the titles after all these years: Oui, Harvey, Gallery, and two Hustlers. One of the issues of Hustler had an article on Anton Lavey, which I’m sure had a profound impact on my juvenile mind. That same issue had a pictorial I’ll never forget: two female “space aliens” in silver outfits and rainbow-colored afros. It was the first time I ever realized that two women could or would ever kiss each other. My initial reaction was “ewww” right before my secondary reaction of “ohhhh.”
Up to that point I had snuck a few peeks at the old man’s Playboys, but I had never known that there was other stuff under those furry early ‘80s muffs. There were so many revelations in those treasures that at first sort of grossed me out, but then completely fascinated me to no end. It seems, arguably, in retrospect, that these magazines just karmically appeared out of nowhere at exactly the right time in my development. My friend and I split them up. He’d hold on to a few of them for a week, and I’d keep the others, and then we’d swap. To a pre-teen kid, prior to the Internet, finding and holding onto such riches was unparalleled.
It wasn’t until the Internet came along that I learned “woods porn” was a thing that was experienced by anyone other than me. I remember first hearing the term mentioned on a messageboard back in the late ‘90s. I was surprised, at the time, that someone else had had a similar experience to my discovery of forbidden sacred treasures in the woods. Others began to chime in with their experiences and I was shocked to find that it was such a common experience.
Over the years, I’ve seen discussions pop up from time to time where (mostly dudes) reminisce about the stacks of Penthouse and (always) Hustler (it seemed to be the woods porn title of choice) that were found in dry creek beds or under logs or in abandoned shacks or behind construction sites.
I’ve had to wonder if there was some sort of Johnny Appleseed of porn who traveled the country distributing perverse periodicals for the most inquisitive children to find on their explorations. Some have speculated about nasty gnomes or porn-faeries littering the woodlands with titillating treats.
Is it possible that stacks of pornography were left in remote areas as lures for pedophiles with nefarious agendas? In my hometown we had a registered sex offender albino shop-owner whose entire M.O. in procuring teenage boys involved offering them jobs “reviewing” porn tapes. Could woods porn have been bait in a trap that somehow hundreds of kids in the ‘70s and ‘80s managed to snag like mice catching cheese without getting caught? I mean, there’s no anecdotal evidence I’ve ever heard to indicate that this is the case, but then again, maybe the parties involved aren’t able to tell their tales?
The truth is probably more simple and innocent than that: the woods offered some sort of privacy that couldn’t be found in the home . They were the ultimate safe space for kids or homeless dudes or henpecked husbands or whomever might have needed a quiet place alone to reflect on god’s creations.
Recreation of a typical woods porn cache. Photo by Bickel.
I recently asked friends on social media if they had ever had an experience with finding porn in the woods and within a day I had over 70 people chime in indicating that they definitely had found porn in the woods as a child. The stories of “secret spank banks” of “rain-mangled” magazines seemed to anecdotally indicate that woods porn was ubiquitous and finding it was a widely-shared common experience.
The stories told were sometimes frightening: one describing a massive “trash bag full that we found in the woods and when we shook it out to sift through it, a huge shit and blood-encrusted dildo fell out too,” and another who had found porn in the woods, but then stopped looking when a dead body was found in the same spot.