Despite the sledgehammers, chainsaws and occasional police-instigated violence that became heavily associated with Plasmatics’ shows, the late, great Wendy O. Williams was first and foremost a gentle soul, with more than a touch of hippie influence. As a teenage runaway she bounced around the Rocky Mountains and sold crafts, moved to Florida to be a lifeguard and even cooked at a health food restaurant in London before making the stage her home.
Wendy was also an advocate for animal welfare and a vocal vegetarian. One might understandably assume that her dietary choices were entirely ethically motivated, but this 1984 interview from Vegetarian Times (see her as the adorable cover girl above) shows she was also incredibly health-conscious—a serious urban gardener who avoided drugs and alcohol, exercised regularly and sprouted her own macrobiotic diet from a Tribeca loft. Williams actually taught a macrobiotic cooking class at the Learning Annex!
The best part? The article includes Williams’ own super-hippie recipe for salad dressing—it actually sounds like a pretty intriguing flavor profile too. Save it for your next Plasmatics themed dinner party!
Wendy’s diet is very heavy on live foods and sprouts. The salad dressing is the result of experimentation in the blender and it’s rather unique in that it includes fresh greens chopped up into the dressing. She advises that its [sic] best to use two different types of greens; one for the dressing, one for the salad.
1 1/2 cups rejuvelac (soak a cup of wheat berries in 3–4 cups of water for 3 days or until berries settle; then strain)
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs. miso or soy sauce
2 Tbs. lecithin
1 Tbs. cumin
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
Fresh herbs of your choice
Mixed greens (parsley, celery, sorrel, lettuce, spinach, or green
Add seasonings to rejuvelac and whir in blender. Add, little by little, 1 pound of mixed greens, Until greens or chopped and mix well. Best when used fresh.
Below, Wendy and her fellow Plasmatics go on a safari with John Candy on SCT.
If one writes anything mean/true about Ayn Rand on the Internet, invariably the author will receive a litany of howling complaints from her fans (people who seem to have an awful lot of time of their hands for some… strange reason) in the comments. It’s absurd and hilarious to field dumb invective hurled at you by people that you have no intellectual respect for and that you will never, ever meet in real life, but dumping on Rand is a predictable impetus for attracting this sort of thing. Scroll down, I’m sure without looking that they’ll start to pile up like poorly punctuated turds under a rabbit cage before too long.
The Randroids behave as if they’re defending the honor of a saint or a great literary or philosophical genius and not a complete lunatic who wrote the most turgid prose of any best-selling author of the 20th century. I understand their psychology well, for I myself was once a teenaged Ayn Rand true believer. Oh yes, I’ve probably read 99% of every word she wrote or that was publicly uttered by her during her lifetime. Not only did I have every Ayn Rand book, I owned every single copy of The Objectivist and The Ayn Rand Letter, kept in green leather binders. I owned all of her Ford Foundation speeches in pamphlets and on cassette tapes. In the 8th grade, I managed to track down her Playboy interview. This unlikely childhood collection, mind you, was amassed by mail order in the 1970s on money earned from mowing lawns. I was really into it, I’m ashamed to say. Could quote her chapter and verse… Then I discovered drugs, punk rock and girls and promptly forget all about Ayn Rand.
Ayn Rand fanboys and girls are a unique bunch, and one trait that many of them—not all, but many—share is that by and large they are not… er… very literate people and Atlas Shrugged is quite often one of the few books they’ve ever read, so it shares an outsized place in their affections.
Ayn Rand is the Enya of fiction. I don’t wish to tar the new agey Irish songstress with the same brush as the Russian novelist with the toxic philosophy, my point being that if Enya (who sells tens of millions of CDs) is music for people who don’t like music, then Rand wrote books for people who don’t like to read. Her books are like Sarah Palin’s in that sense, but when someone who has read precious few books to begin with can wade through a hefty tome like Atlas Shrugged—which IS a page-turner to be fair, the novel’s gripping plot is truly epic—it gives them a sense of completely unmerited intellectual achievement. Problem is they’re too dumb to know that or else they wouldn’t be fucking goofball Ayn Rand fans fancying themselves world-conquering Übermensches in the first place. If you’ve only ever read five books in your entire life and Atlas Shrugged is one of them, you’ll probably think it’s a masterpiece. For those of us who’ve read more than, oh, say, ten books, you look like an absolute fucking knob going on and on about Ayn Rand in Disqus comments. It’s an admission of stunted mental growth, no more, no less. (As someone funnier than I am once said, being an Ayn Rand fan as an adult is like discovering OMD when you’re fifteen and having your mind blown and your musical tastes frozen in time right then and there.)
For the people who have heard all about Atlas Shrugged via Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or being a Ron Paul fan or Tea partier or whatever, but who’ll never, ever finish a gigantic doorstopper of a novel like that one, the news that there was going to be an Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy probably seemed like welcome news until they tried to watch it. There are three “trash compactor” cuts of the Atlas Shrugged films if you’d like to see all three parts in under ten minutes and get “the gist” of what happens.
It still feels at little long, doesn’t it?
Oh look, all new actors in part 2! Obviously part 2 had a significantly lower budget than the first one. Dig the bargain basement Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggarts…
Not wanting to disappoint, the producers got—you guessed it—an entirely new cast for the third installment, too. Except for hamfisted holdover Sean Hannity. And look, Glenn Beck…
Fans of Tim Burton’s circa 1988 horror-comedy, Beetlejuice, are sure to appreciate these striking black-on-white cameos of bio-exorcist Betelgeuse, the monstrous Maitlands, and the “strange and unusual” Lydia Deetz.
Sometimes silhouette artists would be invited to parties by wealthy patrons in order to entertain the guests by creating cut-paper portraits of them, but silhouettes were also an affordable way for lower-class families to have portraits of their loved ones made, as they were much less expensive than paintings and photographs were not yet available. Silhouettes became so popular that a parlor game called Shades was widespread in the years before the invention of the daguerreotype, where people would take turns tracing each others’ shadows, cast onto a piece of paper by a candle.
I’ve already written an item for DM on Secret Weapons, David Cronenberg’s near-incomprehensible TV short from 1972 about a dystopian state that uses mind control drugs and a rebel biker gang that opposes it—in that movie, however, despite the stated existence of a biker gang, there were scarcely any motorcycles to be seen in it. That problem, at least, does not arise in Cronenberg’s 1976 short The Italian Machine.
It’s almost jaw-dropping how much progress Cronenberg had made between these two movies. The Italian Machine relinquishes all aspirations toward big-dick sci-fi in favor of a far more nuanced, engrossing, unfussy meditation on technology, art, decadence, and, shall we say, the pet obsessions of warring subcultures. The idea of the movie, which lasts only 23 minutes, is that a bunch of motorcycle buffs, having learned that an incredibly rare and high-quality Italian motorcycle, specifically a 1976 Ducati 900 Desmo Super Sport, has come into the possession of a local art enthusiast who intends to keep it in his living room as a sculpture, take on the moral imperative of liberating the machine from its outré confines and restoring it to its rightful purpose of kicking ass on the open road.
What The Italian Machine, which first appared on the CBC television program Teleplay, most resembles is a really good short story; more specifically it reminds me a great deal of J. G. Ballard, which isn’t very strange considering that Cronenberg adapted Ballard’s Crash a couple of decades later. In The Italian Machine, Lionel, Fred, and Bug are three motorcycle nuts who enjoy the kind of nerdy oneupmanship that probably features on every episode of The Big Bang Theory. Upon finding out the identity of the Ducati’s purchaser, one Edgar Mouette, they concoct a plan to pose as a magazine crew of photographers doing a spread on Mouette’s interiors. That Ballardian angle resides mainly in Mouette and his cohorts, philosophical aesthetes to the max (when they’re not taking cocaine). Once Lionel and his buddies gain entry, it is the viewer’s task to decide which side is the nuttier of the two. Eventually they do get ahold of the bike, at which point their own ability to fetishize the machine unexpectedly manifests itself.
Truly, a top-notch piece of work, very in line with the many dark masterpieces Cronenberg would make in the years to come.
For me, it’s difficult at this point to be surprised by anything David Lynch does outside of his cinematic endeavors. What’s that you say? He’s teaching the world his quinoa recipe? Of course he is. It’s probably delicious. And now he’s designing women sports wear? I’ll bet it’s great! I’d wear a David Lynch creation to Pilates in a heartbeat. But did you know that in 2006, he personally campaigned on behalf of Laura Dern so she’d get an Oscar nomination for Inland Empire on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea, with a live cow? (He was in other locations, too, such as the parking lot of the former Tower Records on Sunset.)
Luckily, some very excited Lynch fans managed a little impromptu interview with him at the time. He was very warm and diplomatic, obviously genuinely acting on behalf of Dern, but the presence of the cow was not made totally clear. His explanation for his bovine companion was, “Without cheese there wouldn’t be an Inland Empire,” (the same text on the banner he had with him) and then, “Cheese is made from milk. Get it?” (I do not.)
Dern didn’t get the nomination, but what a nice, supportive, and deeply Lynchian gesture!
By 1991, even the most retrograde of old fogies was starting to suspect that rap music was not going away anytime soon. Advertisers began mining it for every bit of cultural capital they could, and soon hip-hop would be used to sell everything from breakfast cereal to high fashion. It became shorthand for “relevant,” and a nifty cultural touchstone that was sure to resonate with the youth… right? “Cutting-edge” and “hopelessly dated” are not mutually exclusive categories—a lot of groundbreaking things simply look silly in retrospect. Dan Aykroyd’s Nothing but Trouble however, was just completely, unjustifiably bad from the beginning.
The Razzie-winning box office bomb actually had a lot going for it in terms of star-power. In addition to John Candy and Demi Moore, Aykroyd was just coming off the Ghostbusters sequel, and Chevy Chase had finished his final National Lampoon’s Vacation movie. Unfortunately Aykroyd’s success may have have burdened him with a bit of artistically unproductive hubris. He directed the film, co-wrote the screenplay with his brother and co-starred in the movie (almost never a good sign). For a little perspective, this was a movie with the $40 million budget—massive for that time—and the box office take didn’t even reach $8.5 million.
Aykroyd also decided that Oakland hip-hop group Digital Underground (you know, the guys who did “The Humpty Dance”) could spice up the movie with a musical number—with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase’s ultra-white guy characters as the enthusiastic audience. Most notably, this means a cameo by a young Tupac Shakur in the most undignified role of his short life. I’d be absolutely shocked if anyone predicted a future in music for Shakur based on this performance—it’s literally one of the worst moments in hip-hop history.
It could be the 1670’s, the 1970’s or in this present day, it is hard to be remain childlike in this world. This is the lesson beloved local TV children’s show host, Tom aka Mr. Rabbey (Tom Basham) learns in 1973’s massively overlooked horror film, The Psychopath aka Eye for an Eye. This grim and strange little gem opens up with one of Tom’s “Rabbey’s Rangers,” little Bobby, playing baseball with the neighborhood kids. His mother, who is straight out of central casting’s “abusive hag” division, immediately starts yelling and yanking him out of the game. His big infraction apparently is playing with other kids, who all seem fairly wholesome and nice. The ole chestnut of “Wait till your Father gets home” is growled at the little towheaded boy. Daddy does get home and is henpecked into unleashing some corporal sadism at the little boy, while one of the neighborhood kids watches in secret.
The next morning, an anonymous call is made to the police and little Bobby is “missing,” as his horrible parents look nervously at each other at the breakfast table. Bobby’s age? Five years old.
The film then cuts to “The Mr. Rabbey Show,” which centers around the eccentrically boyish host and his strangely gruesome puppet show. His choice in marionettes are something straight off of an old Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker album. (See, Oops, There Comes a Smile and get a nightmarish taste.) Despite the off putting puppets and plot lines involving cellars, Rabbey’s got a knack with the kids. A trait his handler Carolyn (Gretchen Kanne) recognizes, helping her come to his defense when the stage director hits the roof over Rabbey missing his marks for the umpteenth time.
Rabbey then goes to the park and plays with the local kids, almost like the pied piper of small town sunny suburbia. All is fun until one little girl’s horrible mother comes along and slaps the crap out of her when she tells her mom that she wants to stay with the other children and Mr. Rabbey. Before threatening her kid with “I’ll give you a reason to cry about!,” all but accuses Rabbey of having an untowards interest in the kids and warns him that she will go to the authorities. (Which apparently do not include DHS in her sphere of existence.) Rabbey looks irritated and confused, since his own sphere of existence seems to literally be stunted at a child-like level.
Meanwhile, the local police force are investigating Bobby’s disappearance. One of them notes that his medical records show a history of “accidents,” which are further looked into when the detective goes to the hospital and talks to the main nurse (Margaret Avery, who went on to be in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple). There’s no hard evidence of abuse, but she gives him a lecture on how you can tell when a kid is abused and introduces him to one little boy, who is bruised and afraid to speak. She shows the officer an experiment where she has the poor kid hold his arm up until she says to stop and asks the same of a little girl who was not abused. The latter immediately tires out and puts her arm down, while the little boy just leaves it up. The officer asks her how long Bobby left his arm up the last time he was in the hospital. She says “Fifteen Minutes.” While this is going on, Mr. Rabbey is in the room, visiting the sick kids to cheer them up with toys and a puppet show involving an executioner. Foreshadowing? You better believe it!
As the officer gets ready to leave, he is greeted and promptly scared by a puppet asking him questions through the driver’s side window. Rabbey pops up and doesn’t seem to make the officer feel any less weirded out, but does ask about Bobby and if they are going to arrest his parents. Of course, nothing concrete is given out information-wise, leaving Rabbey to think about justice that is needed. Another abused kid, a little girl named Rosemary, has one of the doctors knowingly tell her that if she needs anything, to call him. As she is being released, her harridan mother shows up and immediately starts quizzing her daughter if she told them “anything.” It’s a sick, sad world.
Bobby’s parents head home after searching for their kid with the police. They talk in hushed tones about when the authorities will find the body, all the while Rabbey is outside, listening. Soon, he breaks in and has one of his puppet friends peek around the corner, whispering, “Where’s the baby?” Creepsville turns into bloody justice land as the town’s boyish TV host offs both parents. While Bobby’s death has been avenged, you cannot spill blood without being changed and Rabbey heads back to the now empty studio, upset and playing the piano. Carolyn notices that he is acting more moody, especially during dinner, where he lightens up only when he starts exclaiming, “I wish I had all the chocolate cake in the world!” But he quickly comes down and says to her, “I don’t want to talk about it and you can’t make me. Leave me alone!” Things start to spiral more and more, with death, intrigue and one of the best and yet strangely, bleaker twist endings I have seen in a long time.
The Psychopath is an amazing and amazingly bent horror film that could have only emerged out of the 1970’s, arguably one of the grittiest periods for horror and crime films. It was the era that also gave us the even darker and brilliant The Candy Snatchers (1973), Hitchhike to Hell (1977) and more famously, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974.) Out of all of these titles, The Psychopath is infinitely more obscure, as evidenced by its lack of any legal DVD/Blu-ray release, something that all of the above have had. Which is a shame because there is truly nothing quite like it.
It’s commitment to not reward you with any feel-good comeuppance and present a fairly stark worldview is equaled by the strong performance by Mr. Rabbey himself, Tom Basham. A character actor who had appeared on TV shows like Adam-12 and Night Gallery, as well as the pro-gay cult biker film, The Pink Angels, Basham’s performance here is nothing short of unforgettable. He physically inhabits the role of this murderous man-child, acting every bit like a kid who gets irrationally upset, acts out and gets neglected, save initially for Carolyn and the kids themselves. Having the harsh realities of a world born ugly rear up in the imaginary life he’s created is a pill that Rabbey cannot swallow. After all, puppet violence is way easier to deal with than the real thing, so when these two worlds clash, none of this goes well. Having passed away back in 2010 from small cell cancer of the lungs, it’s truly a shame that Basham did not become a bigger name since what can be seen of his work is quite good, with his turn as Rabbey being the biggest stand-out.
The film itself is not perfect, with parts of the soundtrack being reminiscent more of a TV Movie of the Week than a dark horror film about mental instability and child abuse. It is also really strange that all but one of the many abusive parents featured here are mothers. The dads are mentioned but other than Bobby’s drunken henpecked sadist of a father, they are more in the background. This certainly would be far from the first (or last) film to deal with some violent mommy issues.
The Psychopath has remained in semi-obscurity for years. A remake was planned in the 1980s with Combat Shock director Buddy Giovinazzo at the helm and starring the interstellar Joe Spinell as “Mr. Robbie.” In a weird move, it was to be titled Maniac 2: Mr Robbie, though it had nothing whatsoever to do with William Lustig’s Maniac. Some footage was shot but the film itself was never completed due to the untimely death of Spinell. (Though you can see some of the footage in the X-rated version of Skinny Puppy’s “Worlock” video.)
The Psychopath can be found both on way out-of-print VHS copies and somewhat easily via the gray market DVD circuit (and YouTube in several parts), but with so many equally obscure films finding their way to legit DVD/Blu-ray releases, one hopes that this bizarre horror gem will get the treatment it so desperately deserves.
Ken Russell was among the many directors originally touted to direct A Clockwork Orange before Stanley Kubrick. Russell was considered stylistically sympathetic to bring Anthony Burgess’s source novel to cinematic life—he had documented youth gangs as a photographer in the 1950s and made a series of highly influential drama-documentaries and films that had inspired not only Stanley Kubrick but also Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and later Derek Jarman. I wonder what Russell’s version of A Clockwork Orange would have been like? Perhaps more flamboyant, more seedy, more of the end-of the-pier, more human than Kubrick’s aesthetically pleasing but cold and sterile vision. And though the great and the good lobbied to have Mick Jagger play Alex, I wonder if Russell would have opted for his favorite actor Oliver Reed? Oh, what japes they’d have had. Instead Kubrick chose Malcolm McDowell because of his unforgettable and iconic performance as Mick Travis in Lindsay Anderson’s If…
Casting at first sight: director Lindsay Anderson was understandably smitten by McDowell’s beauty, talented and attitude when he cast him as Mick Travis in ‘If…’ The performance that led to his role as Alex in Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange.’.
McDowell had the blue-eyed, blonde beauty of a fallen angel—he would have been the perfect choice to play Lucifer for Kenneth Anger. McDowell was born in 1943 into a lower middle class family in Leeds, he was never the working class lout as some tabloids like to pretend but a privately educated son to a family who ran a small guest house. He was clever, smart, idealistic, and decided he wanted to be an actor. After school, he found found work as a stage manager on the Isle of Wight before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. McDowell embraced the cultural rebellion of the 1960s and hated the dominance of the established theatrical institutions, as he once explained to writer Michael Bracewell:
‘The RSC? Horrendous. Middle-class theatre crap…actorly acting with lots of shouting—after [Laurence] Olivier—and soul-searching performances…I mean I saw some great performances—Ian Richardson and Paul Scofield—but it was like being ordered around and told what to do by a bunch of little shitheads. I auditioned for the RSC by reading the Prologue from Henry VIII, for the very good reason that nobody knew it. It begins, “I come no more to make you laugh”, which was ironic, because humour has always been a great mainstay of my arsenal. I mean, A Clockwork Orange was essentially a comic performance. I used to loot my style from Eric Morecambe.’
Eric Morecambe (with umbrella and bowler) and Ernie Wise.
Eric Morecambe was the comic half to the much-beloved double-act Morecambe and Wise, who dominated British television screens in the 1960s and 1970s, which brings a different interpretation to his performance as Alex—one that would have been ideal for Ken Russell.
‘I’ve always had to live down A Clockwork Orange wherever I go, because ever since then, with the exception of O, Lucky Man!, which I made with Lindsay [Anderson] immediately afterwards, I’ve always been cast as the heavy. It used to irritate the shit out of me, and then I just got bored with it, you know? I just wanted to get on, maybe make a few comedies or do something else, but there was Alex…I know that I’ve said some mean things about Kubrick in the past, but thinking back to the actual shooting of that film and trying to forget all the baggage of what happened afterwards, it was an incredibly stimulating experience, even though I got to the point where I hated the film because of the reaction.’
This runs contra to McDowell’s enthusiasm as expounded in this interview about A Clockwork Orange he gave with author Anthony Burgess in 1972, but this was still early days and McDowell had not been hamstrung by his move to Hollywood, where he ended-up making movies for the lowest common denominator. McDowell is an exceptionally talented actor and no matter how dire the film he always gives a powerfully memorable performance.
The book and its Beethoven-loving author, Anthony Burgess.
Anthony Burgess came to hate Kubrick’s film too, which was ironic as the movie made Burgess a bigger star than his writing up to that point had achieved. Burgess is a writer’s writer, a polymath who claimed he would rather be known for his musical compositions than his books. Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange in 1962, after being mistakenly told he had not long to live. To ensure he left money for his wife, Burgess wrote a series of novels in quick succession, one of which was A Clockwork Orange. It was moderately successful on publication, a cult book, that became a bestseller after Kubrick’s movie. Burgess claimed he took the title from an old East London saying, “As queer as a clockwork orange,” which may or may not be true, as there appears to be no known record of this phrase. Whatever its derivation, it perfectly captured the book’s theme of a hideous artificial will imposed on natural behavior.
McDowell and Kubrick on set during filming.
After Kubrick’s film version of A Clockwork Orange was released in Britain in 1971, it was ironically linked to a series of violent crimes. The first was the murder of a tramp by a 16-year-old youth; the second involved another 16-year-old who, while dressed in the film’s distinctive gang uniform, stabbed a younger boy; the third was the brutal and horrific gang rape of a Dutch girl by a group of youths from Lancashire, as they sang “Singing in the Rain”.
Sentencing the 16-year-old for assaulting a child, a judge described the attack part of a “horrible trend” prompted by “this wretched film”. Following death threats and warnings from the police over revenge attacks, Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to pull the film from its UK release. For a very long time, through the 1980s and 1990s, the nearest place Brits could see A Clockwork Orange was Paris. It was only after Kubrick’s death in 1999 was his ban lifted and the film re-released in the UK.
New York’s Tragedy is the world’s greatest all-metal tribute to the “Bee Gees and beyond.” They’ve been doing this for awhile, but man this oozing slab of Grease is particularly meta metallicious.
Band members Barry Glibb, Mo’Royce Peterson, Disco Mountain Man, Andy Gibbous Waning and The Lord Gibbeth are masters of their own Universe - a place where hair metal meets disco and dance floors are roiling in blood, polyester, Aqua Net and the ungodly essence of teen spirit!
Tragedy has released three critically acclaimed albums: We Rock Sweet Balls And Can Do No Wrong, Humbled By Our Greatness and their latest, Death to False Disco-Metal.
“You’re The One That I Want” is not a Bee Gees’ song. It was written by John Farrar for the movie version of Grease and performed by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. So this enters into the “beyond” part of Tragedy’s repertoire.
What’s next boys? Farrar/Newton’s other big hit? “Have You Ever Been Mellow?” Yes!
Death to false disco-metal. Count me in!
The video was shot at “Our Lady of Perpetual Decimation High School” in Manhattan - the original school of extremely hard knocks. And as the video begins, I think I detect the beach where I surfed the swells of Montauk before the gremmie hipster invasion fucked the scene up.