Here’s Gene Wilder’s polite constructive criticism to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory‘s director Mel Stuart, after viewing early sketches of the costume:
I’ve just received the costume sketches. I’ll tell you everything I think, without censoring, and you take from my opinion what you like.
I assume that the designer took his impressions from the book and didn’t know, naturally, who would be playing Willy. And I think, for a character in general, they’re lovely sketches.
I love the main thing — the velvet jacket — and I mean to show by my sketch the exact same color. But I’ve added two large pockets to take away from the svelt, feminine line. (Also in case of a few props.)
I also think the vest is both appropriate and lovely.
And I love the same white, flowing shirt and the white gloves. Also the lighter colored inner silk lining of the jacket.
What I don’t like is the precise pin pointing in place and time as this costume does.
I don’t think of Willy as an eccentric who holds on to his 1912 Dandy’s Sunday suit and wears it in 1970, but rather as just an eccentric — where there’s no telling what he’ll do or where he ever found his get-up — except that it strangely fits him: Part of this world, part of another. A vain man who knows colors that suit him, yet, with all the oddity, has strangely good taste. Something mysterious, yet undefined.
I’m not a ballet master who skips along with little mincy steps. So, as you see, I’ve suggested ditching the Robert Helpmann trousers. Jodhpurs to me belong more to the dancing master. But once elegant now almost baggy trousers — baggy through preoccupation with more important things — is character.
Slime green trousers are icky. But sand colored trousers are just as unobtrusive for your camera, but tasteful.
The hat is terrific, but making it 2 inches shorter would make it more special.
Also a light blue felt hat-band to match with the same light blue fluffy bow tie shows a man who knows how to compliment his blue eyes.
To match the shoes with the jacket is fey. To match the shoes with the hat is taste.
Writer, musician, raconteur Dave Hill is the author of the upcoming comic anthology Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Dave Hill is a very, very funny man. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Dick Cavett, Andy Richter, Malcolm Gladwell and John Hodgman also think he’s pretty hilarious. John Oliver must like Dave, too, because he uses “Go” by Dave’s band, Valley Lodge, as the jaunty theme tune for his Last Week Tonight with John Oliver show on HBO. Apparently Samantha Bee is a Hill fan, as well, since she had Dave on her new Full Frontal program earlier this week, serenading some college-educated Donald Trump supporters with a little ditty he’d composed about Trump especially for the occasion (see below).
And Dave actually knows what he’s singing about from experience. He really knows Donald Trump. Or at least he is—or was—once very, very briefly acquainted with the Donald for about an hour or so back in 2004…
The year was 2004. Both NBC’s The Apprentice and really fun cell-phone ringtones had taken an unsuspecting public by storm. I had managed to elude both—I kept my phone on vibrate and was ready to stare in bemusement at anyone even thinking of telling me I had been “fired.”
But I needed money, so when the call came to write ringtones for Donald Trump, a quiet businessman from Queens who had been reluctantly thrust into the spotlight by the seventh-most popular program on network television at the time, I said yes. I had been doing some freelance writing and one of my clients was among the tangle of corporations assigned to the case. Fortunately, they decided to throw me a bone.
Of course, I knew a thing or two about Trump already. He had flawless hair; he slept on piles of money each night; given the choice between having something not gold-plated or entirely gold-plated, he chose door number two every time. Still, I wanted to do the best job possible, so I had one of Trump’s minions send me copies of two of his books, Trump: The Art of the Deal and Trump: The Art of the Comeback, as well as an anatomically correct Trump doll that would tell me all sorts of things every time I pressed its back, something I couldn’t help but do repeatedly as soon as it came into my possession.
“You really think you’re a good leader?” the doll would ask, seemingly out of the blue. “I don’t.”
A little harsh, maybe, but also something I probably needed to hear.
Despite all the hours I spent playing with that doll, though, I had my work cut out for me. Somehow, in what I can only assume was the result of someone putting a gun to Trump’s head, NBC owned the rights to his electrifying catchphrase “You’re fired!” The challenge was mine to figure out what else he might say—to write some slogans people might want to hear coming out of their phones besides those two magical words that had already galvanized a nation.
“Your services are no longer required at this place of business!”
“Please stop showing up here for work, okay?”
“Die, you anus!”
These are but a few of the alternatives to “You’re fired!” that I proposed. In the end, though, it was decided that Trump’s ringtone avatar would be less cutthroat and more inspirational, encouraging cell-phone users to answer promptly so they could take advantage of a big business opportunity or maybe just hurt someone’s feelings. I whipped up a few dozen Trumpist gems. Track ‘em down if you like; I imagine they’re still out there somewhere, priced to move.
“This is Donald Trump. I have no choice but to tell you . . . you’re getting a phone call.”
“I’m Donald Trump and this is the call of a lifetime!”
“This is Donald Trump. Answer your phone now—it might be me calling.”
Maybe not my finest hour, but, hey—the customer is always right. After that, I assumed my work was done, but I ended up being asked to attend the actual taping, too, at none other than Trump Tower.
“You mean I’ll actually be in the room while Donald is saying the stuff I wrote?” I asked a guy from the ringtone concern.
“Yes,” he said, placing a hand on my shoulder for emphasis. This was officially about to be the biggest thing anyone in my family had ever done, including fighting in wars or any of that other crap my older relatives always went on about. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to tell them.
“I’m working with Donald Trump,” I told my mom over the phone.
“Who?” my mom asked.
“Donald Trump,” I told her. “The guy from The Apprentice.”
“David got a job with Tony Crump,” my mom yelled to my dad in the next room.
“That’s nice,” my dad yelled back.
They were pumped.
When the big day rolled around, I put on a suit and tie and worked as many hair products into my scalp as possible before heading over to Trump’s offices in midtown Manhattan to meet the other dozen or so people required to complete a task of this magnitude.
As expected, Trump HQ was beyond opulent. It was as if a blind decorator had been given an unlimited budget and told he’d never work in this town again.
“This way, please,” a Trump representative, who was difficult to focus on amid all that sparkle, said before leading us to a conference room. Along the way, I spotted Donald Jr. sitting in an adjacent office, his hair perfect, as he no doubt bought or sold something without even thinking about it. It ruled.
“You have one hour,” the rep announced, prompting everyone in the conference room to spring into action, turning it into a makeshift recording studio. A few minutes later, the doors opened and in walked Trump, somehow looking even Trumpier than I’d anticipated. He wore a suit and tie and, of course, his trademark scowl. And though he stood mere feet from me, I found I had no further insight into his hair-care regimen. Looking into his coiffure did nothing to demystify it. In fact, it only confused me more.
“Right this way, Mr. Trump,” a ringtone specialist said, gently urging him toward the microphones while being careful not to actually touch him.
“Let’s make this quick,” Trump grunted, already sounding like the ringtones I’d written. “I’ve got a busy day ahead of me.” At this point, a mild panic set in as everyone in the room became convinced he or she might very well be “fired” or at least told to wait by the elevators at any moment. As for me, though, I couldn’t help but relax a bit; it had suddenly occurred to me that Trump might not be the oblivious blowhard everyone thinks. I mean, sure, he was a blowhard, maybe even the biggest blowhard of all time, but he also seemed totally self-aware, like he knew he was just playing a character, and that as soon as we left, he’d run into Ivanka’s office, shut the door behind him, and squeal, “I got ‘em again, honey!” Something about that made me actually kind of like the guy, if I sat there and thought about it long enough.
Moments later, after a technician had scrambled to hit any and all record buttons, Trump began barreling through the ringtones, printed on large cue cards that would remain easily readable even when he squinted judgmentally, which was always. Occasionally he’d give emphasis to a different word or see if getting angrier might help sell things a bit more. Meanwhile, everyone else in the room remained pinned to the wall, just trying to get through the proceedings intact.
Things seemed to be going well enough until about twenty minutes later, when Trump paused abruptly and began scanning the room in the manner that, by now, haunts people’s dreams the world over.
“Who wrote these things?” he barked, pointing at the cue cards like he wanted them taken out back and shot.
“That guy! Dave Hill!” at least five people volunteered in unison, their tone suggesting they would happily stab me right then and there if Trump would just say the word.
I figured I might start gathering my things at this point, but before I could, Trump looked at me, dropped his scowl, and said, “You’re a very good writer.”
“Thanks,” I said with a nod, sensing a trap. For the remaining forty minutes or so of the recording session, Trump refused to address anyone in the room but me. Others tried to intervene, but as soon as they finished talking, Trump would turn to me, his right-hand man, and ask, “What do you think, Dave?”
It was a weird kind of trust to have earned, sure, but it was also kind of cool—especially considering that otherwise I probably would have been just sitting at home scanning Craigslist for missed connections.
As the session wrapped up, I recalled something else I’d learned about Trump through my tireless research: he hates shaking hands. Naturally, this made my mission clear. This will be the true test of our love, I thought as I stood waiting for any others brazen enough to approach Trump to say whatever they were gonna say with their hands glued to their sides before get- ting the hell out of his sight, dammit.
With the path clear, I approached him for some bro time.
“Nice working with you, Donald,” I told him.
“You, too, Dave,” he said.
“Thanks,” I replied. I gingerly extended my hand. I could feel eyebrows across the room rising in slow-motion panic.
Will he? Won’t he?
Against all odds, Trump slowly reached out and grabbed my hand, shaking it not so firmly, as if to suggest his henchmen might be waiting for me outside and not so softly as if to suggest a quality hang in Montauk was off the table. No, this was just right—perfect, in fact, almost like he was a regular human being who had done this sort of thing before. All these years later, that shake still feels like a victory of some sort, but I’m not sure for whom.
As I sit here writing this in my underpants, Donald Trump continues his disturbing bid for the American presidency. And I find myself hoping more than ever that he really is only playing a character, that maybe he’s just the greatest performance artist of our time, a modern-day Warhol or slightly chattier Marina Abramovíc who will any day now say “Tada!” and take a bow, then go open an all-you-can-eat shrimp joint in the Outer Banks or something.
With each passing day, I fear I may be wrong. Still, whatever happens, it’ll always be nice to look back on that day at Trump Tower and think, “Sure, he’s a hate-spewing boob who somehow manages to sound even angrier and crazier than that doll I still can’t help but drag out from under the bed every once in awhile…and, yes, he’s even got that certain awful something to win the endorsement of the unicellular Sarah Palin. But put the two of us in a room together for an hour and, goddamn, do that son of a bitch and I make one hell of a ringtone.
Okay, we’re going to do some cute here on Dangerous Minds today. Here’s father and son duo, Andrew and Hudson covering Kraftwerk’s “The Robot.” Kudos to dad for turning his son onto the good stuff instead of all the horrible manufactured pop drivel that most kids listen to nowadays. Parenting done right, in my opinion!
We’ve blogged about this wicked-cool board game—loosely based off of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream—by artist Alyx Baldwin back in 2009, but I see it’s making the rounds again. Plus I think it’s time to give this game another go-round because it deserves the attention. Just look at how much thought and consideration was put into this board game!
The term “genius” has been so devalued by its inanely ubiquitous overuse by the media one can no longer be certain what it means. Read any music review, film critique or general piece of hagiography typed by some blogger and you’ll stumble over the word “genius” as frequently as a drunk stubs a toe against furniture in the dark.
For example, Kim Kardashian apparently has “a genius” for clothes. Her husband Kanye West is, of course, a self-confessed genius. What the word genius means in these two examples I’m not really sure. Unless, of course, it means “tasteless” and “delusional.”
Genius once meant something exceptional. It was the laurel crowned on the head of only the greatest talents. A friend once suggested there was greatness and then there was genius. His example went something like this:
Genius pervades all aspects of an individual’s life. The talent, the taste, the originality of thought. For example, David Bowie was once asked by Coldplay to collaborate on a song. He declined claiming the song on offer wasn’t very good. David Bowie had genius.
Brian Eno produced Coldplay’s fourth album. Brian Eno has greatness.
Whether this is a fair or even correct assumption to make—docking Eno for deigning to associate with that lot—who am I to say?
When I first heard of the multi-talented polymath Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno—the man with a name for every day of the working week—he was being hailed as “the genius” behind Roxy Music. I demurred. It was always Bryan Ferry the chief singer and songwriter who I thought of as “the genius” of that band. When Eno left Roxy—the cry went up that they were not the same without their impish knob twiddler. I couldn’t see it and wondered what the fuss was all about. Then came Eno’s first solo album Here Comes the Warm Jets and I began to appreciate what some of that fuss had been about.
By the end of the seventies as Roxy became less pop art and more soulful tunesmiths, Eno was still seeking out new projects—moving on, discovering, producing, creating, testing the parameters of music. He seemed unstoppable.
In all respects, Eno is more than the sum of his parts. He sets an example as a creator, an artist, a musician—of what it means to be alive and to do as much as possible. As he suggested in the profile of his life and career Another Green World:
All of the encouragement from modern life is to tell you to pay attention to yourself and take control of things.
Whether Eno’s merely great or a genius is immaterial. He’s a concept, an exemplar to do things better, to try them differently, to learn more, to do more.
In 1964, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were two young aspirant filmmakers wanting make their first feature. They had first met in a coffee bar in London, where they talked about their shared interests in film, art, music. Though from two very different backgrounds—Lambert ex-military, son of a composer, Stamp brother of actor Terence, son of a tugboat captain—there was an instant and dynamic rapport.
When they met again while working at Shepperton Studios the pair decided to work together and make a movie. It was to be their calling card—establishing them as serious film producers. They discussed options on what their film should be about and decided on making a documentary about a young Mod band and their rise to the top.
The High Numbers (aka The Who) performing at the Railway Hotel, 1964.
While looking for a suitable group to film, Lambert chanced upon the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone, London. He was intrigued by a crowd of young Mods and their scooters outside the venue. He ventured inside. A band was blasting out songs to around 500 youngsters crammed inside—dancing, singing, ecstatically enjoying themselves under the bright red garish lights. Lambert thought the scene reminiscent of one of the circles of Hell. Listening to the four young men on stage, he knew he had found his band.
I shall always remember that night we first saw them together. I had never seen anything like it. [They] have a hypnotic effect on an audience. I realized that the first time I saw them. It was like a black mass. Even then Pete Townshend was doing all that electronic feedback stuff. Keith Moon was going wild on the drums. The effect on the audience was tremendous. It was as if they were in a trance. They just sat there watching or shuffled around the dance floor, awestruck.
They were called The High Numbers. Formerly known as The Detours and The Who. The band Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon were tipped as “the In group” among London’s Mods. The music press at the time had this to say:
The four members of the group—Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsen [sic], John Allison and Keith Moor [sic]—all come from South London. Roger attended Acton County Grammar School, Peter went to Ealing School of Art, John attended Acton County Grammar School and Keith went to Harrow Tech.
Three of the group—Roger, Peter and John—worked with a group called the Detours. Keith was formerly with The Beachcombers. Listed among the group’s favourite artistes are Buddy Guy, John Lee hooker, Howlin’ Wolf—from whom they draw inspiration.
The High Numbers think of themselves as THE in group. They’re in because they wear their hair an inch long all over, and sport extravagantly striped blazers over zebra-crossing sweatshirts.
But most of all, they’re in because they play Marvin Gaye numbers and know what Mary Wells, The Miracles and Little Stevie Wonder are all about…
They’re individuals. Even in a world where everyone dresses alike, talks alike, looks alike.
You see, they’re up-to-date with a difference. They’re even ahead of themselves.
All so young and innocent.
They were signed to publicist Pete Meaden, who insisted on the band’s name change from The Who to The High Numbers in a bid to attract a Mod following. Meaden had also written their weakish debut single “Zoot Suit”/“I’m The Face”—which he spent a lot of money on, buying-up copies of the disc to make it a hit.
Lambert and Stamp proposed filming The High Numbers for their movie project—tentatively called Mod. They recorded the band performing two songs “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” and “Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying.” The High Numbers were raw, electrifying—with a great energy that singled them out as a major talent. Lambert and Stamp abandoned their film and decided they could achieve more by managing and producing this young, powerful band.
Although most people would associate “Mah Nà Mah Nà” with The Muppets or Sesame Street, this iconic song that’s been sung by children the world over for nearly half a century actually originates from a racy 1968 Italian softcore “mondo” documentary called Sweden: Heaven and Hell.
The film, which has scenes of swingers parties, nude beaches, porn films and lesbian nightclubs—and even a scene of drug addicts huffing gasoline and eating shoe polish on bread to get high—used the song in the context of its camera ogling several towel-clad blondes cavorting in a sauna giving the scene a comic “leering” quality when a few of them drop their towels and decide to frolic in the snow (because that’s what nude Swedish ladies apparently used to do back then).
Italian cinema composer Piero Umiliani’s original soundtrack score—or at least one number—“Mah Nà Mah Nà”—took on a separate life when it became a novelty hit, reaching #55 on the Billboard singles chart in October of 1969. (It would eventually reach #8 on the British singles chart in 1977. It’s been covered by the likes of the Dave Pell Singers, Tom Jones, Giorgio Moroder, Goldie Hawn, Nancy Sinatra in her Vegas act and there’s even a Moog version.)
The song was also associated with both Benny Hill and Red Skelton, then it was adopted by bearded hippy puppeteer Jim Henson. The beatnik Muppet character who would become known as “Mahna Mahna” debuted on Nov. 30, 1969, on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Arrows and the original version of the “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” single, 1975
I’m quite sure that everyone reading this has heard the anthemic “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” that was popularized by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts in 1981. But if you don’t know the origins of the song, then you’ve probably never heard of the Arrows, a rock trio comprised of musicians from both America and the UK—vocalist and Bronx native, Alan Merrill (the former vocalist for the cult glam band Vodka Collins), guitarist Jake Hooker (who went on to manage acts like The Knack and Edgar Winter), and UK drummer Paul Varley. Otherwise known as the band that actually wrote and recorded “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” back in 1975.
A shot of Arrows performing on their TV show
As the folklore goes, Jett was on tour with The Runaways in the UK when she caught Arrows (who formed in 1974) performing the song on their short-lived television show Arrows. Produced by well-known television personality, actress and producer, Muriel Young (who was also behind Marc Bolan’s show, Marc), the 30-minute show which was broadcast between 1976 and 1977, and featured the band performing their own songs—many prodcued by the great pop impressario Mickie Most—as well as “star guest” segments from acts like Slade, and a short-haired version of Marc Bolan who lip-synced in front a live studio audience.
As glammy and cool as The Arrows were (and they really were), they never enjoyed the same success with the single that Jett’s version of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” did, and the band broke up after the the last run of their eponymously titled show, sometime in 1978. Jake Hooker married Lorna Luft, the daughter of Judy Garland and the half-sister of Liza Minnelli during his tenure with Arrows and they stayed together until 1993.
It’s the ultimate Frank Zappa fan’s stickiest wet dream. Buy—and live—in the great man’s former five-bedroom, 8000 sq ft home in the Hollywood Hills. The Zappa house is for sale on eBay for $9,000,000. Part of the proceeds of the sale will go towards preserving “The Vault” of Zappa’s immense tape, film and library (kept under the house) and funding the Frank Zappa documentary slated to be directed by Alex Winter later this year.
This is the house in which legendary musician FRANK ZAPPA lived from 1968 until his death in 1993. It has been inhabited by the Zappa family since.
THIS IS FRANK ZAPPA’S
The historic Zappa Estate, nestled on a secluded drive in the Hollywood Hills, is 8,000 square feet of California rockstar paradise. The property includes a rooftop tennis court, backyard swimming pool, guest cottage, beautiful mosaic art amidst the landscaping, and the space that was once the infamous Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, where musicians including Frank have recorded since the 1980s. Beneath the house is a storage chamber that, during the Zappas’ ownership of the home, was known as ‘The Vault,’ where he kept his private archives under lock and key.
The price of this house INCLUDES ALL KICKSTARTER REWARDS listed at whoisfrankzappa.com, as well as an EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT on the forthcoming definitive documentary about Frank Zappa’s life by filmmaker Alex Winter. Learn more about Alex Winter’s crowdfunding campaign to make the first-ever fully-authorized, all-access Zappa movie and to save Frank’s private archives. SAVE THE VAULT. TELL THE STORY.