DJ and singer Princess Julia with George O’Dowd aka Boy George.
Billy’s was a nightclub in Soho, London, where every Tuesday for most of 1978 two young men—Steve Strange and Rusty Egan—ran a club night playing tracks by David Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. The club was in a basement underneath a brothel. From this small cramped space a new generation of artists, writers, performers and DJs first met up and planned the future together. Punk was dead. It was uncool. It had gone mainstream. The teenagers who came to Billy’s wanted to create their own music, their own style and make their own mark on the world.
Among this small posse of teenagers were future stars like Boy George, Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), DJ Princess Julia, Jeremy Healy (Hasyi Fantayzee), Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife) and an eighteen-year-old Nicola Tyson who would go onto become one of the world’s leading figurative painters.
It’s rare that someone is savvy enough to ever take photographs of a nascent cultural revolution. But Nicola took her camera along to Billy’s and she documented the teenagers who frequented the club that launched the New Romantics and a whole new world of pop talent.
‘It was all a Dream.’ An oil painting depicting rapper Biggie Smalls as ‘Max’ from Maurice Sendak’s 1963 book, ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’
Artist Camargo Valentino is a painter whose beautifully mashed-up, pop-culture inspired oil paintings routinely fetch between $4,000 - $14,000 bucks a pop. Though he is self-taught when it comes to his preferred medium of oil-painting, Valentino graduated from the Art Institute of Houston and then went on to study under the tutelage of Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum in Norway and Iceland.
As a child, Camargo spent much of his time drawing pictures based on his toy collection. According to the artist, his creations can take anywhere from 40 to 200 hours to complete and the influence of masters such as Diego Velasquez and his mentor Nerdrum are vibrantly apparent in the composition and use of color to evoke mood in his dreamy oil paintings. Here’s more from Camargo on what inspires him to paint pop culture icons such as jazz great Charlie Parker clad in a “Big Bird” costume:
I paint what I am most attracted to; icons; comics; movies; history; art; sports figures; hip hop; my heritage and world myths. So my paintings are a combination of all these things rolled into one with a splash of myself.
I’ve included a nice selection of Camargo’s paintings below that I think you will love just as much as I do.
It’s amazing when you consider what we might now view as quaint, familiar photographic imagery was once a serious no-no. We’ve all seen photos of Betty Page bound and gagged to the point where it’s no more shocking than a LIFE magazine cover image. When John Alexander Scott Coutts aka “John Willie,” publisher of the original Bizarre magazine and the author/ artist of the iconic art comic The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline started, excuse me, basically invented fetish photography as we now know it, it was a punishable crime.
Possibilities!, a massive 472 page coffee table book of John Willie’s photos, published by J.B. Rund’s Belier Press is the be-all, end-all last word from the world’s greatest expert on the subject.
Belier Press has been in existence since 1974 and the publisher’s own story is as interesting as the subject of the books he puts out. J.B. Rund was a young teen running around in the original rock ‘n’ roll era (1955/56) looking for second hand rock ‘n’ roll 45s to buy cheap from juke box distributors in Times Square. One of these stores also had “adult books” and this is where the author first saw a John Willie photo. The afterward of this book goes into great detail about this discovery period and the history of Belier Press. Belier Press has published all kinds of books, not just fetish photography, though I can say that the first time I ever saw a photo of Betty Page was on the cover of Belier’s Betty Page Private Peeks volume two. He also put out R. Crumb’s Carload o’ Comics, The Complete Fritz The Cat, all of the reprints of the Irving Klaw catalogs (Bizarre Katalogs), Eric Stanton and Gene “Eneg” Bilbrew and other fetish artists in Bizarre Komix (24 volumes!), The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline and the recent deluxe reprint. An amazing run.
Possibilities! has more than 1,360 photographs basically giving a visual history of John Willie’s fetish coming of age and, in fact, the birth of what we take for granted now as an art form, a style, a distinctive look and feel all which can be traced back in these photos to something that sparked excitement in one man’s mind (and loins) and the fact that he wasn’t afraid to act on that idea, even though for all he knew he may have been one of the only people on earth to feel this way.
John Alexander Scott Coutts (or JASC as the author refers to him) was born in 1902 in Singapore, the youngest of four children of William Scott and Edith Ann Spreckley Coutts. His father, wanting to go into business for himself moved the family to St. Albans, Hertfordshire, a northwest suburb of London in June 1903. As a very young child Coutts was drawn to a particular type of children’s fantasy literature called “Fairy Books,” where he developed an attraction for “damsels in distress” and the want to rescue these damsels. At around this time he also showed a talent for drawing.
To quote the author:
At about the age of puberty he became aware of another attraction—for women in high heeled shoes—which had a strong sexual connotation for him. In his fantasies John wanted these women in high-heels to be tied-up (in order to rescue them?).
In September of 1921 Coutts entered Sandhurst (the Royal Military Academy), graduating in 1923 with a commission as Second Lieutenant and joined the Royal Scots regiment. In 1925 he married Eveline Stella Frances Fisher, a nightclub hostess who he decided needed “rescuing.” They were married without the required permission of his regiment and against his the wishes of his father (who cut him off), so he moved to Australia in late 1925 or early 1926. The marriage disintegrated soon after. One day in 1934 Coutts stumbled upon McNaught’s, a shoe store on King Street that had a sideline catering to shoe fetishists. He also discovered in that establishment the existence of a weekly British magazine called London Life.
London Life was, as Rund puts it:
...a weekly British magazine that openly dealt with a range of fetishes, but in a conservative manner that would seem quaint by today’s (lack of) standards. Suddenly John Coutts realized that he was NOT alone!
At this point he was introduced to a locally based organization for shoe fetishists, possibly called “The High-Heel Club,” run by a retired ship’s captain who went by the name “Achilles.” He then met Holly Anna Faram around 1934, a woman that shared his his interests in bondage & high heels. She became his first model, and his second wife.
“Coutts was frustrated by the refusal of London Life to print any of his letters on the subject of bondage and arrived at the conclusion–in 1936 or ‘37–that he could produce a superior and more liberal publication, which in 1946 would come to called Bizarre.
In the decade in between coming up with the idea of Bizarre magazine and getting the finances to put that project together, he came up with the idea of selling high-heeled shoes, though he actually wanted to market his photographs of women wearing those shoes and not the actual shoes themselves. But it didn’t work out that way.
In 1937 Coutts got access to “The High-Heel Club” mailing list and started his career as a photographer. He also acquired the right to use the name “Achilles.” At first, using the list, he offered rather pedestrian photos of women wearing high-heels. He then added Holly Anna Faram who turned out to be an amazing model and started offering bondage poses, but in a veiled manner. Like many artists, writers and musicians Coutts was not a good businessman and not very good with money, a problem that would follow him throughout his life.
Early in 1938 he placed a series of ads in London Life magazine for his sexy shoes, charging what he felt would be too much for any potential customer (wanting to push his more reasonably priced photos instead) and naturally people started to order them. Now he had to do something, or return the money. So Coutts added shoe maker/designer to his list of accomplishments. He also put the money together to make his dream magazine but World War II broke out and that ended that dream, at least for a while.
In 1940, John Coutts volunteered for service in the Australian Army (listing his religion as “Pagan”). In 1945 he decided to move to America to once again attempt to bring his Bizarre dream to life. At the end of that year he travelled to Canada on a merchant ship to subsidize the trip. In Montreal he found a printer that not only had an allotment of paper (remember this was wartime), but was willing to take on the job. At that moment both “John Willie” and Bizarre were born.
As far as Coutts’ new name was concerned and what it meant—“Willie,” of course, being British slang for the male sex organ—but “John Willie” was also a Cockney rhyming slang term for a little boy, so ummmm… take your pick! At last he was on his way. Willie moved to New York City in 1946 or ‘47, trying to work on Bizarre with not a lot of luck. He postponed publishing after four issues and started again in 1951. He sold the magazine to a friend in 1956 after publishing 20 issues. He also did business with infamous fetish photographer and mail order dealer Irving Klaw, famous for his Tempest Storm and Betty Page photos, bondage photos, fetish cartoon serials and of course, the photos by John Willie. Klaw made two color full length films (Teaserama and Varietease) which survived and can be seen on one DVD from Something Weird Video.
To quote Rund again:
In April of 1961, after moving to Los Angeles, Coutts/Willie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, followed in May by a confrontation with a Postal Inspector concerning his photographs. He then decided to put an end to his activities as “John Willie” and destroyed all of his negatives as well as his mailing list sending this announcement to his customers:
“On this occasion I will forgo the usual editorial “WE” (which is more businesslike) and instead, as this is the last letter you will ever receive from me I am reverting to “I”. I got sick (it happened very suddenly) and had to undergo a major operation (of course I’d have no insurance). As a result, there will be no more “Gwendoline,” and the whole business will be closed as of June 25th. (I have a few weeks grace—I hope.) I would like to inform you that on that date everything, but everything, including the mailing list will be destroyed… It’s been nice to have known you and I wish you the very best in your games of fun and nonsense.”
This was followed by a quotation from John’s favorite book (his “Bible”), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, from which he had also quoted at the beginning of each issue of Bizarre: “Ah, with the grape of my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.”
John Alexander Scott Coutts passed away on August 5th 1962, at a doctor friend’s house in Scottsdale Arizona, on the same day that Marilyn Monroe died.
Little could Coutts have known the impact his art and life would have on the future of human sexuality. This impact is mostly due to Bizarre magazine and his The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, both of which have been documented. According to author and publisher J.B. Rund:
The former (Bizarre) in the disappointing reprint of the magazine. The Latter (Gwendoline), together with a substantial amount of previously unpublished and uncollected artwork, in The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, (Belier Press, 1974 and 1999). And to a lesser extent, as a photographer, which heretofore has been poorly and disrespectfully done. The present work will expand on this other talent, and provide an extensive—but not a complete—record of his prodigious output in that medium.
The photos in the book are culled almost completely from just two sources, the author/publisher’s personal collection and that of the Kinsey Institute. It’s separated into three huge sections, geographically (Australia, New York, Los Angeles) which match his life’s timeline and it’s just incredible to see it all in one massive artistic survey. The notes, introductions and afterward are riddled with the most minute details that seem to leave no stone unturned. If you have even the slightest interest in pop culture, photography, women in distress, art, bondage, or the history of alternative culture, then you owe it to yourself to own this book—the only one you’ll ever need on this subject. Trade edition available from Belier Press for $70. Deluxe limited edition of 150 numbered copies each in a custom made cloth slipcase containing an ORIGINAL print of a photograph taken by John Willie in Los Angeles circa 1958-61, a different photo in each book, plus reproductions of two previously privately circulated photographs taken by Willie in Sydney circa 1938 (not in the book). Plus John Willie Speaks–John Willie Sings!?!, an audio CD, just under forty-eight minutes, consisting of a monologue from Within A Story, his only known speaking part in a motion picture from 1954, and excerpts from the only known interview with Willie from 1961-62, excerpts from A Bawdy Recital–Poems, songs and stories performed by John Willie in 1962. Whew! A serious bargain if you ask me, as only Belier Press could whip up.
Here are some interesting “weekend bags” that will certainly grab people’s attention. The bags are by 99 Wooster and they’re delightful, in my opinion. I’m really liking the Elizabeth Taylor in Boom! bag. Or even the Bea Arthur bag. I mean, how many of these are you going to see around town? You’d be truly an original with one of these puppies.
I’d probably use mine as a gym bag because who in the hell has time to take weekend trips anymore?
The bags are selling on 99 Wooster’s site for $75 each. I didn’t post all of their bags. You can check out the rest of them out here.
We were talking about espionage, and he said that most people thought the safest way not to be bugged was to walk in a crowd. And I thought, Wow, that’s a great motif for a film—and it started there, around 1966. I actually started working on it around 1967, but it was an on-again, off-again project which I was just never able to beat until 1969 when I did the first draft.
The Conversation follows surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) who is hired to monitor a young couple. From his covert recordings Caul thinks he may have uncovered a possible murder as the couple’s recorded dialog includes the phrase “He’d kill us if he got the chance.” Caul plays and replays the tape in his obsessive and paranoid attempt to decipher the dialog’s real meaning.
Coppola was influenced by Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) which used a similar plot device—in this case a young photographer (David Hemmings) thinks he may have captured evidence of a murder with his camera.
I got into THE CONVERSATION because I was reading [Hermann] Hesse and saw BLOW-UP at the same time. And I’m very open about its relevance to THE CONVERSATION because I think the two films are actually very different. What’s similar about them is obviously similar, and that’s where it ends. But it was my admiration for the moods and the way those things happened in that film which made me say, “I want to do something like that.”
Every young director goes through that.
Coppola and Hackman on location during filming for ‘The Conversation’ in 1973.
Coppola didn’t want to make a rehash of Blow-Up or a token movie version of Hesse’s cult novel Steppenwolf—though he did take some inspiration from the book’s central character Harry Haller—“a middle European who lives alone in a rooming house”—and his delusional fantasies. (The book also contains a significant role played by a saxophonist.) Coppola was more interested in approaching his script as a puzzle:
I have to say [The Conversation] began differently form other things I’ve done, because instead of stating to write it out of an emotional thing—the emotional identity of the people I knew—I started it as sort of a puzzle, which I’ve never done before and which I don’t think I’ll ever do again.
In other words, it started as a premise. I said, “I think I want to do a film about eavesdropping and privacy, and I want to make it about the guy who does it rather than about the people it’s being done to.” Then somewhere along the line I got the idea of using repetition, of exposing new levels of information not through exposition but by repetition. And not like RASHOMON where you present it in different ways each time—let them be the exact lines but have new meanings in context.
In other words, as the film goes along, the audience goes with it because you are constantly giving them the same lines they’ve already heard, yet as they learn a little bit more about the situation they will interpret things differently. That was the original idea.
De Palma is a good interviewer. He gets Coppola to open up on his filmmaking technique where many other interviewers may have failed. The whole interview was published (including a few spelling mistakes) in the seminal magazine Filmmakers Newsletter in May 1974 and has been uploaded by Cinephilia and Beyond. Click on the images below to read the whole conversation between De Palma and Coppola.
Read the whole interview between De Palma and Coppola, after the jump…
Erik Estrada as ‘Officer Frank Poncherello’ (AKA “Ponch”) and Donnie Most in character as ‘Moloch’ from the ‘CHiPs’ episode ‘Rock Devil Rock’ that aired on October 31st, 1982.
Like many of you, I spent much of my youth just like the character of “Mike Teavee” from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory did—watching a ridiculous amount of prime time televison programming. What’s especially fun about reflecting back on many of those shows are the occasional appearances of rock and roll luminaries like Suzi Quatro jamming with her fictional band on Happy Days as the awesome “Leather Tuscadero,” Debbie Harry canoodling with Kermit on The Muppet Show, or Plasmatics powerhouse Wendy O. Williams and her Emmy-worthy performance as the ass-kicking “Big Mama” on an episode of MacGyver (“Harry’s Will”). Today I’ve got something that transcends all that as it involves actor Donnie Most who played “Ralph Malph” on the aforementioned Happy Days and his appearance on the goofy TV cop drama based on the California Highway Patrol CHiPs playing “Moloch.” Moloch was a satanic mashup of Gene Simmons and King Diamond in full makeup, clad in red spandex and a fucking cape. And he was played by Ralph Malph of all people!
If you’ve never seen this episode of CHiPs (which is completely understandable) you are in for a treat as it also features Cassandra Peterson all dolled up like her gothy alter-ego Elvira and get this—current Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo (who was only eighteen at the time) playing a character called “Flippy.” Flippy! I’ve included a few images of Mr. Most getting into character as well as some faux concert footage and an amusing Moloch “video shoot” that must be seen to be believed. If you need another reason to watch then here it is—Donnie “I still got it!” Most provided his own vocals for the song “Devil Take Me.” Fuck yes. You can watch the entire episode on iTunes for three bucks and it’s worth every goddamned penny.
Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren. Photographed by Helmut Newton, 1983.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until I can’t remember that far back—the 80s were a weird, wonderful decade. And a perfect example of how wonderful it was is the unexpected coupling of 6’5” actor Dolph Lundgren and enigmatic Jamaican-born powerhouse, Grace Jones.
Born in Stockholm, before he got into acting Lundgren was an accomplished scholar who by the time 1982 arrived had already received a scholarship to fulfill his Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Sydney in Australia. While he was in Australia, Lundgren worked security detail for musicians like Joan Armatrading, Dr. Hook and Grace Jones—and his chance meeting with Jones would turn into a four-year love affair. In 1983 Lundgren was the recipient of the prestigious Fulbright scholarship to the equally prestigious MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston. According to Dolph he would arrive on the legendary campus on his motorcycle with a leather-clad Jones in tow. At Jones’ urging Dolph soon switched gears and headed to New York to study drama. He worked security at the Limelight nightclub until Limelight boss Peter Gatien caught him eating a sandwich in a stairwell and fired him. But thanks to Jones’ deep connections in the world of entertainment he landed his first acting gig with his exotic paramour in the last James Bond film to star Roger Moore, 1985’s A View to a Kill.
1985 would be a pretty big year for the couple. Jones and Lundgren were immortalized together in a stunning photographic series by Helmut Newton that appeared in the July issue of Playboy magazine. Lundgren would then land the role of “Ivan Drago” in the 1985 film Rocky IV that would propel him to stardom. Sadly it wouldn’t be long before things got weird between the gorgeous duo and according to her 2015 book I’ll Never Write My Memoirs Jones’ recalled the moment when her beautiful union with Lundgren would begin to dissolve: after she showed up at his hotel in Los Angeles with a gun. Here’s more from Jones on how that went:
I actually had a gun. It seemed very natural that I would go and fetch Dolph holding a gun. I did so out of desperation — we had been together for years and had made this move to L.A., a place I absolutely loathed, against my better judgment, and then he comes back from being away and Tom [Holbrook, Dolph’s manager] blocks me from even saying hi. What is going on?
We turned up at the hotel, not to shoot anyone, but to make sure he came with us. We banged on the door of his room. Bang, bang, bang! I’ve got a gun! I’m screaming, “Let him out, you bastard!” It was as though Tom was holding him hostage and we had come to rescue him, hair flying, legs flailing, breasts heaving, guns flashing, music pumping. This was the kind of hysteria that took place in Los Angeles. In one of the many lives I never got to live, another Grace (one who never came true) shot Dolph there and then… And that was the end of the ballad of Grace and Dolph.
Later in the book Jones also tells the story of setting Lundgren’s clothes on fire. The couple called it a day before anyone got killed sometime in 1986. I’ve included images from the former power couple’s Playboy shoot as well as a nice assortment of other photos of the two canoodling back in the day that will remind you that love doesn’t follow any kind of rules, and should never have to be subject to them. Some of the images are slightly NSFW.
A photo shot by Helmut Newton of Jones and Lundgren that appeared in Playboy Magazine in July of 1985.
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: