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‘Starfish and Coffee’: Prince jams with The Muppets, 1997
06.24.2014
07:49 am

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Television

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Prince

Prince and the Muppets
 
In 1997 Prince appeared on ABC’s Muppets Tonight, on which he seems totally at home. This was the 1990s, so his Purple Badness was still in his “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” phase—there’s even a joke about it here. This is the full video, complete with Dutch subtitles for your convenience. After a few amusing bits of business, including a weird one where Prince plays briefly with “The Hoo-Haw Ha Ha Ha Hayseed Band,” the real goodness begins around the 13:30 mark.
 
Prince
 
At the commissary, Rizzo the Rat challenges Prince to write a song about that day’s breakfast menu, and the result is “Starfish and Coffee.” It’s not exactly “Little Red Corvette,” but it’s pretty delightful.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Tim Burton’s bonkers take on ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ 1982
06.19.2014
08:23 am

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Television

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Tim Burton


 
This offbeat Disney Channel Halloween special originally aired—and aired once—on October 31, 1983 at 10:30 at night. Since then, it’s only been shown at the big Burton retrospective that was at the Museum of Modern Art in 2009/10 and in a Burton-themed show programmed by the Cinémathèque Française that traveled in 2012.

About a week ago, the special was uploaded to a torrent tracker by someone who had obviously taped it off cable in the early 80s and it’s been on YouTube since a few days ago. Watch it now, who knows how long it’ll be there.


 
Burton’s revisioning of the Brothers Grimm tale involved a cast of Japanese actors, creepy stop-motion animation and drag. It was shot on 16mm for a little over $116,000. I think this is one of his BEST ever films. It’s really cuckoo, and reminds me A LOT of the late Mike Kelley’s work (Speaking of, if you live in Los Angeles and miss the big Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA, you’re crazy.)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Beastie Boys and the Butthole Surfers, live on NYC cable access TV, 1984
06.18.2014
07:32 am

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Music
Television

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Butthole Surfers
Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys & Butthole Surfers
 
Ah, 1984, back when hardly anyone knew who the Beastie Boys and the Butthole Surfers were, and even a lowly New York City cable access show like The Scott and Gary Show could snag them—because nobody else was booking them yet! This is some kind of retrospective episode of the show (lasting about 30 minutes) in which Scott Lewis and Gary Winter reminisce about some of the show’s most memorable moments. The Beasties appeared in January 1984, not long after their pranky single “Cooky Puss” had made the rounds, and the Buttholes’ appearance dates from October 1984—their first visit to New York. (They popped up on MTV the next day.)

The Beastie Boys were two solid years away from the release of Licensed to Ill, and if I understand their history correctly, they hadn’t really considered doing rap in any serious way yet. Meanwhile, the Butthole Surfers had a single solitary EP to their name when they appeared on the show.
 
Beastie Boys
 
The Beastie Boys are frankly pretty terrible, prompting the thought that a lateral shift from feckless hardcore to feckless rap was a pretty good career move! Mike D. is in charge of the vocals, Ad-Rock is on the guitar, and MCA gamely tries to keep up on the bass. The drummer is Kate Schellenbach, who would later be in Luscious Jackson. Actually, Schellenbach probably has the best moves of anyone here.

How did I miss what an incredible ham/camera-hog Mike D. is? I don’t think I knew that before, I always thought that Ad-Rock was the hammy one. Well, there’s a reason that Mike D. has the mic here, and in the interview portion afterwards, he obstinately refuses to cede control to Scott, forgetting that he’s supposed to speak into the mic he’s clutching for it to function properly. (Side note: It was interesting to hear Mike D. confess that he attended Vassar briefly. I went to Vassar a few years later, and we would whisper this “rumor” that one of the Beasties had dropped out of Vassar…. this was all a couple years before Paul’s Boutique came out.)
 
Butthole Surfers
 
The best adjective for the Butthole Surfers segment is “sweaty.” The Buttholes’ segment is a salutary reminder of the effectiveness of using two drummers—man, that shit works really good. If you have two drummers going at it balls-out, you can flail around on the guitar and throw yourself all over the stage, and it’s going to sound good. (I think Kid Millions has already figured this out.) Also, disrobing is a viable strategy. Gibby has spectacular polka-dotted boxers, and supports someone named Gilbert A. Rodriguez for county treasurer. By the time they’d gotten to October, Scott and Gary had figured out how to superimpose images, so sometimes the footage of the band will fade to an image of a mushroom cloud or something, it’s all pretty rad. Afterwards, Scott asks the audience, “Where else are you gonna see the Butthole Surfers?” and receives the reply “Uganda,” in return.

The commonality between the two clips is obviously Scott’s lack of authority as the host, which is actually kind of charming.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Peter McDougall, the hard-man of British TV drama
06.17.2014
08:32 am

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Literature
Television

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Peter McDougall
drama

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Just A Boy’s Game

Though there is a mass availability of choice most of today’s television dramas are cut to the same unimaginative pattern. Indeed, there are computer programs to help writers “craft” their material to fit a dramatic template. These writers are helped by script editors trained to implement politically motivated agendas and then focus group administrators who screen the “finished” dramas to selected audiences to gauge their responses, influencing the creators to make changes accordingly. The producers are usually more concerned with maintaining this farce rather than allowing originality and talent to flourish. In other words, the writer is secondary, or is part of a team of “professionals,” performing dogs who bark for the needs of their employers. In a world of off-the-peg TV drama, truly original writing is a rare thing. 

Once, writing and writers were respected and allowed the freedom to create, to imagine, to write. One series, which allowed such freedom was the BBC’s Play for Today (perviously known as The Wednesday Play), which produced work by the likes of Dennis Potter, David Mercer, Caryl Churchill, Howard Brenton, Barrie Keefe, and Stephen Poliakoff. Play for Today offered imaginative, issue-based, social drama. One of the single most important writers to come out of this strand was Peter McDougall, whose plays put real working class experience on television for the first time—unfiltered from middle class agendas.
 
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Peter McDougall at his home in Glasgow.
 
McDougall once gave me the simple advice that every writer should heed:

“Write about what you know.”

That’s what McDougall did—he wrote from his own experiences, writing down on wee bits of paper stories, dialogue, he was at first ashamed to show anyone until one day when he was working as a painter and decorator in London, the actor and writer Colin Welland told him to write about his life. This Peter did: starting with his adventures as an apprentice boy twirling the baton on Orange walks, those sectarian parades where Protestants in Scotland and Northern Ireland celebrate Prince William of Orange’s victory over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. This he turned into the Prix Italia winning drama Just A Boy’s Game (1975), one of the most controversial plays ever screened on British television, as it questioned the brutality of sectarian violence then as now endemic in Scottish society. It was so controversial that the Glasgow police banned the filming of the drama;s central Orange walk from the from city in fear of “bloodshed on the streets.” The production was forced to relocate to more genteel Edinburgh to film.

Born in Greenock in 1947, McDougall left school at fourteen and started his working life in Glasgow’s shipyards, where he first met and worked alongside Billy Connolly. As McDougall has recounted, working in the shipyards was brutal, the conditions so cold in winter that skin stuck to the iron rungs on ladders. His experience in the shipyards and his knowledge of the people he worked alongside were incorporated into his most notorious drama Just A Boy’s Game (1979).

Just A Boy’s Game was a morally complex drama that starred singer Frankie Miller as the grandson of a local hardman, who wants to win his respect. The film was described by Martin Scorsese as Scotland’s Mean Streets, while playwright Tom Stoppard thought the script contained some of the best dialogue ever written. The play opens with a bloody razor gang attack in a small night club and ends with a brutal fight between Miller’s gang and an up-coming younger generation of thugs, before a powerful final scene between Miller’s character and his grandfather.

Not all of McDougall’s work is about violence—he wrote a beautiful, moving and funny drama The Elephant’s Graveyard (1976), a kind of modern-day ghost story, which starred Jon Morrison and Billy Connolly as two men running away from the own separate problems. He also wrote the powerful and harrowing drama on Edinburgh drug dealers and heroin addiction, long before Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, called Shoot for the Sun (1986), which starred Brian Cox and Jimmy Nail, and then a drama about the life of a US Navy shore patrol officer based in Greenock, Down Where the Buffalo Go (1988), which starred Harvey Keitel.

His last major drama, Down Among the Big Boys (1993), was originally intended as a three-part series focussing on different characters form the same story—a bank heist—which was eventually cut down to a single drama starring Billy Connolly and singer Maggie Bell.

McDougall still writes, though these days mainly plays for the stage, as TV wants dramas that will satisfy focus groups, advertisers and fit the constricting formatted structure of today’s programmes. Intelligence isn’t required, good writing isn’t required, and experience certainly isn’t necessary for today’s television dramas.

However, for those who are serious about writing, and serious about learning how to write, then this documentary on Peter McDougall will help supply the information and inspiration on how best to write.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Peter McDougall’s classic gangland film ‘Just A Boy’s Game’ starring singer Frankie Miller

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Jello Biafra meets the UFO cult: The Lost Footage found!


 
This is an update of something that I posted here two weeks ago, so if it looks familiar, there’s a good reason for that.

I’m reposting it because the event that I was/am describing below—the presumed lost video footage, I mean—has been located. When Cinefamily in Los Angeles recently hosted Jodi Wille’s mega-amazing weekend-long celebration of the Unarius Academy of Science’s er… visionary cable access programs, Jello Biafra made it down from San Francisco and he brought with him DVDs containing over two hours of footage sourced from VHS copies made of just the interview segments of a video shoot that we had done at the Unarian Brotherhood center in 1992 for a Showtime pilot. (There was plenty of B-roll footage of a sparsely attended parking lot ceremony, shots around the center and an amusing moment where Biafra raided the costume room and got each of the Unarians to put on their outlandish intergalactic clobber. This is still lost. All of the camera originals and several dozen tapes of the Unarius cable access program were stolen. The only copies of anything were the tapes Biafra had.)

The footage, dubs of the camera originals, basically, were lightly edited by Biafra’s friend Erleen Nada, a graphic designer and musician who lives in Los Angeles who also happens to be a big Unarius buff herself. She also digitally blew the picture up to hide the timecode. Although it’s two hours long, it is, for the most part, highly entertaining. It’s not a documentary per se, but as a document of the several hours that an extremely quick-witted punk rock legend spent in the company of a goofy SoCal UFO cult over twenty years ago, you can’t really beat it.

Here’s what Erleen sent me in an email today:

My favorite part of this whole thing is watching him trying to hold back the laughter after every question, and his slight glances at the camera as if to say “Did you get a load of that question I just asked?”  Haha. 

I’ve probably watched the video about 50 times now, and his expressions still make me laugh every time. 

He has such a great way of asking potentially offensive questions, in a non-offensive way, and it’s complemented by the Unarians easygoing attitude about the whole thing. They were really good sports, laughing along with everything that Jello asked, they had a beautiful sense of humility about the whole thing that makes them seem that much more awesome.

I had gotten about as far as making a snarky twenty minute rough cut that incorporated a lot of footage from the Unarius TV shows, soundtrack music from Kramer’s three album set The Guilt Trip, and a voice-over narration that Biafra recorded about six weeks after we shot this in El Cajon. That’s lost and will never be found—all the tapes were stolen from the trunk of a car parked in the Playboy building in Beverly Hills. I’m sure that guy was disappointed!—but it might be that this is an even better way to watch this material. Seeing this for the first time in 22 years there were chunks of it that I could still recall from memory having edited the rough cut myself and hearing it so many times.
 

 
The original article, slightly edited for clarity:

At some point in the fall of 1992 Jello Biafra and I travelled to El Cajon, California with a small camera crew to shoot a short documentary about the Unarius Academy of Science for a Showtime pilot I was directing. The Unarius Academy of Science is a colorful (and quite harmless, no hint of a Heaven’s Gate vibe) UFO cult with their own cable access show, and was at that time housed across the street from both a center for recovering drug addicts/methadone clinic and a sleazy plasma center where you could sell your blood for cash. A Foster’s Freeze was a block or two away. There wasn’t much of anything else going on there. Just a bunch of empty parking lots and an occasional unoccupied building, some threadbare thrift stores and a funeral home. Not to say it was a ghost town, but minus the Unarians, and the junkies, in this part of town, there seemed to be almost no one else around.

To a certain extent, that might be the reason that people joined the cult in the first place: because there is next to nothing to do in El Cajon which isn’t related to gang activities, drug dealing, burglaries, car theft and crime in general. El Cajon’s crime rate is three times the national average. There are very few legitimate jobs for the people who live there, even at the best of times. Maybe some of the town’s residents looking for a little solace from a cruel universe that dealt them the shitty hand of ending up in El Cajon, might be an explanation for the goofy cult’s local appeal.

But then again, maybe nothing can adequately explain it. If you think of the Unarians as characters straight out of a Daniel Clowes comic, it might make a little more sense?
 

 
The Unarius Academy of Science was formed by Ernest and Ruth Norman, a couple of dotty New Agers, in the mid-1950s. Unarius is an acronym which stands for UNiversal ARticulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science. The story I heard was that Norman was a traveling psychic medium who put grieving WWII widows in touch with their dead husbands and Ruth was one of his clients. One of his wealthier clients, whose dead husband had left her a restaurant chain or so the story went…

The two met and were married within weeks. Soon Ernest would start self-publishing channeled books and they began having public meetings in Glendale, CA, ultimately publishing over 100 books and garnering several hundred followers. After Ernest’s death in 1971, Ruth Norman moved Unarius to the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, where she also bought up several parcels of now valuable real estate so that a landing strip could be built for the “Space Brothers” of whom Archangel Uriel (as Ruth Norman now called herself) was their emissary on Earth.

The Unarian cosmology predicted that 33 planets would simultaneously send ambassadors in spacecraft that would lock together and form a futuristic city. Uriel taught that beings outside of our direct experience and comprehension exist—she was one of them!—and that one day the Space Brothers will help us silly humans evolve, turn deserts into vegetable fields, stop wars and improve our architecture. 
 

 
In the late 1970s, “The Arrival,” an elaborate, seemingly high budget film about the Space Brothers showing up in the year 2001 was produced by the group, allegedly with the help of someone who worked for George Lucas doing special effects on the Star Wars films. Creatively fulfilled by this experience, by the early 80s, certain members of the cult began to take an interest in making a cable access television program promoting the group’s beliefs: “Everything is energy.” “You, as a form of indestructible energy, possess a soul that has recorded data from past lives.” “All happenings to you currently have their origins in past lives and past actions.” “Negative acts must be compensated for by positive acts.” And best of all, Asians are Martians and vice versa (Unarians are not racists, this is seen as a good thing, i.e. proof that the aliens have been here for millennia!). The “star” of these programs, naturally was Uriel/Ruth Norman, who took to wearing clothing that would make Liberace blush, often made with Christmas tree lights that needed to be plugged in, thereby awkwardly limiting her mobility!

Some of the shows would just be Uriel talking to her followers and others would be like super low budget “psychodramas”—think Kuchar Brothers, early John Waters, Andy Milligan, etc.
 

 
These “psychodramas” were unfuckingbelievable, featuring full outer space costumes, zany make-up and and batshit crazy scenarios. For instance, Uriel might decide that a certain Unarian had been a murderous space captain or an evil sea serpent in a past life. So the group would do these semi-improvised and somewhat elaborate plays, that were designed to “drastically relive” these past lives, so that the Unarian follower would be freed from their karma (more or less). In the one with the sea serpent, they literally videotaped it next to a swimming pool and several people got into a crappy aquatic dragon suit fashioned from floating pool furniture and inner tubes and swam around as the rest of them held a trial and passed judgement on the “creature.” A lot of their psychodramas had a “trial by jury” aspect to them. Holy shit were they tweaked. These programs made it as far as New York’s cable access weirdo home, Channel J.
 

 
The morning we got there and before Biafra arrived, we shot their Interplanetary Confederation Day, where far fewer than 33 Unarians marched around in a circle with far fewer than 33 banners representing the (hilariously named) 33 planets who were supposed to supply all 33,000 of the Space Brothers who would arrive here in 2001. A tin spaceship contained 33 doves who were supposed to spill out into the sky at the ceremony’s climax, but they didn’t figure on it being as hot as it was on the day and most of the birds could barely dribble out of the thing. Some probably fried inside as the fully-costumed Unarians marched around their parking lot to the amusement of the folks, like myself, who were there to gawk at them in amazement. Spectacular it wasn’t, but you had to admire their commitment in the face of mainly disinterest, secondarily people driving by and shouting insulting things at them the whole time and that it was boiling hot that day and they were all in their layered interplanetary garb.
 

The meaning of this painting gets explained in the video…
 
Biafra and I never did get to meet the then 93-year-old Ruth Norman herself, her health didn’t permit it, but he did speak to her on camera via a speakerphone as seen in the video. Frankly, I’m just amazed that twenty years after Ruth Norman’s death that the cult still exists. But they do. And even with their leader long gone, her prophecies that didn’t even remotely come close to passing and the sheer pointlessness of the whole thing, the Unarians persist, although the ones who we met 22 years ago are a bit longer in the tooth now (aren’t we all?) What’s weird is that they never grew out of their quirky belief systems even after the Space Brothers failed to arrive—the WHOLE THING that their belief system hinged on—in 2001. Like Jesus on Easter Sunday, Uriel herself was supposed to return then, too. She didn’t even send them a text!
 

 
Here’s the trailer for the recent Cinefamily event. If you aren’t familiar with Unarius, this is a good two minute crash course before you watch the Biafra footage…
 

 

 
After the jump, Erleen Nada’s Unarius-inspired “Psychedelic Spaceship” video

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Casey Kasem, Bachelor #3 on ‘The Dating Game,’ 1967
06.16.2014
06:17 am

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Television

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Casey Kasem
The Dating Game

Casey Kasem
 
Three years before he started the American Top 40 franchise and five years before he married his first wife, a Los Angeles DJ named Casey Kasem appeared on The Dating Game in an effort to win not only the affections of a Vienna-educated secretary named Patty Foster but also an all-expenses-paid trip to Rio de Janeiro!
 
Casey Kasem
 
This is highly entertaining footage. It’s especially livened up by the wisecracks coming from Bachelor #1, another celebrity, as it happens, a comic named Bill Dana, better known to the audiences of The Ed Sullivan Show as the heavily accented Puerto Rican character named “José Jiménez” and later in life as Sophia Petrillo’s brother “Angelo” on The Golden Girls.
 

 
via Classic Television Showbiz

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Hey Good Looking Boy’: Roxy Music in the 1970s
06.13.2014
08:51 am

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Music
Television

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Bryan Ferry
Roxy Music

yrrefnb.jpg
 
Even after all these years, listening to those early albums produced by Roxy Music is like hearing music from an as yet to be imagined future. The shocking originality of their debut single “Virginia Plain” through to “Pyjamarama,” “Street Life,” “Do the Strand,” “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” and “Mother of Pearl” are fresher and better than nearly everything pumped out today.

At the heart of Roxy Music is Bryan Ferry, the chief song-writer and lead singer, a working class lad, born in Washington, Tyne and Wear in the north of England. His father was from a farm and his mother from the town, and as he once explained in an interview with the Nottingham Post, his father:

“...used to court [his mother] on a plough horse for ten years before they got married. It was very old-fashioned.”

Music was just a noise to his father, but to his mother it was a passion. She had her favorites and a liking for some rock ‘n’ roll, even taking her young son to see Bill Haley and The Comets in the 1950s. But Ferry preferred jazz and soul, and after hitch-hiking from his home town in 1967 to see Otis Redding perform in London, he decided that he had to become a singer.

At school Ferry had felt that he was “an oddity” but wasn’t until he started studying Fine Art at Newcastle University that his creative ambitions came into focus. Under the tutelage of noted British Pop artist Richard Hamilton, Ferry became more confident in his own talents and began writing songs. These were at first influenced by Hamilton’s pop aesthetic, best heard in songs like “Virginia Plain” which was inspired by a painting Ferry had made of a packet of cigarettes (Virginia Plain was a brand of cigarette).

After a few false starts with The Banshees and then Gasboard, Ferry formed Roxy Music with friend Graham Simpson in 1970, being quickly joined by saxophonist/oboist Andy Mackay and Brian Eno on tapes and synthesiser. By the summer of 1972, Roxy Music had their first top five single, and Ferry’s teenage hopes of pop success were sealed,

This compilation of concerts from German TV’s Beat Club and Musicladen captures Roxy Music at their height of their powers in the mid-1970s, with the suave tuxedoed Bryan Ferry leading the band through hits like “Street Life,” “Virginia Plain” and “Mother of Pearl.” Close you eyes and you’ll think this is tomorrow calling…
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Charlie Rich declares war on John Denver and pop-country at the 1975 CMAs—or does he?
06.13.2014
08:40 am

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Music
Television

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Charlie Rich
John Denver

Charlie Rich and John Denver
 
Fans of rock music and hip-hop love to reminisce over aberrant behavior at awards ceremonies, whether it’s Jarvis Cocker cheekily interrupting a “messianic” Michael Jackson production number at the 1996 Brit Awards, Kanye West running roughshod over Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, or Ol’ Dirty Bastard upstaging Shawn Colvin at the 1998 Grammies with his insistent reminder that “Wu-Tang is for the children!”

One doesn’t associate such antics with the Country Music Awards, but when it comes to unscripted shows of disrespect, the CMAs may well boast the grandaddy of ‘em all. In 1975 Charlie Rich pulled a stunt so magnificently contemptuous, country music fans are still arguing over what Rich meant by it.

In order to appreciate the moment, a little background is in order. Like many musical genres—metal, punk, and rap come immediately to mind—country music has its perennial battles over who represents the heart of the genre, pitting the old-school likes of, say, Johnny Cash against those pop singers who represented the “sellout” impulse of watered-down country-lite in order to appeal to a much larger audience. During the mid-1970s country music was going through a civil war of sorts between the “authentic” core of the art form and the audience-ready pap that was threatening to dilute the genre’s identity. In 1974 Charlie Rich had won the CMA for “Entertainer of the Year”—nobody could argue with his country music bona fides—while “Female Vocalist of the Year” had gone to Olivia Newton-John, a figure about whom one could fairly argue whether she had anything to do with country music at all. Disgruntlement could be discerned in the farthest reaches country music industry. As “Trigger” at the Saving Country Music website states,
 

At the 1974 CMA Awards, a firestorm erupted when Olivia-Newton John was awarded the “Female Vocalist of the Year.” This created a backlash, including many traditional country stars met at the house of George Jones and Tammy Wynette and decided to form “ACE” or the Association of Country Entertainers to attempt to fight the influx of pop stars into the genre.

 
A year later, when it came time for Rich, as the reigning award-winner, to present the award to the 1975 Entertainer of the Year, he came fully prepared to make a strong point. Taking the stage after Glen Campbell’s intro, Rich, in his unsteady, slurred vocal patterns, betrayed signs of recent intoxication—it is said that Rich had been enjoying gin and tonics backstage. After reading aloud the nominees—John Denver (punctuated with a loooong deadpan pause), Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap, and Conway Twitty—Rich managed to peel apart the envelope. After glimpsing the name of the 1975 winner, Rich suavely produced a Zippo lighter from a pocket, set the card on fire, and, smirking, coolly intoned, “My friend, Mr. John Denver!” Poor Denver, whose cheerful visage was being piped in from distant Australia—yet another sign of his distance from the country music scene?—clearly had little way of knowing what had happened.
 
Charlie Rich
 
Wait—he set fire to the card?! When you watch the video, you can see no small defiance in Rich’s eyes, and the audience laughs at the gesture, as it will laugh at anything odd and unexpected. But what did Rich mean by it? At this point we get varying interpretations. The Country Music Hall of Fame has this to say about the incident:
 

At which point he pulled out his Zippo lighter and set fire to the card holding the name of his successor. Rich held the burning card up for the cameras on the nationally televised live show and smiled a big smile of triumph. The message to anyone watching seemed clear: in Rich’s eyes, a West Coast neo-folkie like John Denver, who had built his career on pop radio, was not welcome in country music.

 
As Rolling Stone points out, not everyone agrees that Rich was looking to make so strong a statement, in particular Rich’s own son:
 

Most people interpret the event as a protest against country music’s pop crossover (the CMA blacklisted him from future shows), but Rich’s son disagrees, blaming the incident on an accidental combination of prescription pain medication and a few too many gin and tonics: “Anybody that knows anything at all about the history of my father will know that it simply wasn’t in his mind set to judge someone for not being ‘country enough,’ ‘blues enough,’ rock enough’ or ‘anything enough.’”

 
Charlie Rich Jr.‘s lengthy and eloquent account can be found on his website—it’s well worth reading for anyone interested in the affair. He claims that his dad disliked the competition implied by doling out awards for art, was fond of Denver, never had a bad thing to say about any musician, and was on pain medication on the night of the show due to broken bones in his foot.

This defense is undercut by Rich’s own statement, at the start of his remarks, that the CMA in his hand is “the most beautiful thing in the world right here.” Personally, I think the gesture was partly a joke, partly the result of mixing meds and booze, and partly a sincere expression of annoyance at the notion of John Denver as a country music legend—it’s everything mixed up together. Rich may not have realized that the “statement” value of the gesture would tend to outweigh every other part of it, that observers would be eager to emphasize the anger inherent in it over every other impulse. For me, it remains a beautifully ambiguous gesture, combining both anger and whimsy, and is all the more resonant for being impossible to pin down. 
 

 
H/T The Little Lighthouse radio program

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The Making of an Underground Film: Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol and a ‘topless’ Velvet Underground


 
There is simply too much pork for the fork in this wild CBS Evening News report on the then-new phenomenon of “underground films” from New Year’s Eve of 1965/66.

Seen here are Piero Heliczer filming the Velvet Underground, along with testimony from Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, a gorgeous young Edie Sedgwick, Al Aronowitz (the rock journo who introduced The Beatles to Dylan—and pot), Willard Van Dyke of the Museum of Modern Art, Chuck Wein, even shirtless and bodypainted Lou Reed and John Cale. Angus MacLise, who was still in the group when this was shot makes an appearance as well.

I think it’s safe to say that this is probably the first and so far at least, only time an excerpt from a Stan Brakhage film was ever shown on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.
 

 
Thank you Michael Simmons!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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A slightly bombed Dennis Hopper bemoans the fate of his feature ‘The Last Movie’
06.12.2014
09:14 am

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Movies
Television

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Dennis Hopper
The Last Movie

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Sometimes Dennis Hopper was a whiner who played the James Dean role of angsty misunderstood outsider, blaming his woes on “the man,” or those philistines in Hollywood who didn’t appreciate his art. He had a point, but in his younger days, he was often infuriatingly naive about how life and Hollywood worked. Sure, he had talent, he had ambition, but he also had (by his own admission) a big mouth and no power—which can be a major drawback to those who seek to change the world.

After the success of Easy Rider, Hollywood thought they could exploit Hopper’s success by hiring him to make another movie, a kind of Easy Rider 2. They didn’t care what it was about so long as it made them money, lots of money. But when rumors about Hopper’s drug-addled unreliability spread through Tinsel Town, and certain studios withdrew their offers of finance damned fast. Even his gun-toting music producer friend Phil Spector walked away from stumping up dollars for Dennis after he was reminded about the actor/director’s incredible appetite for drugs. It was therefore a surprise when Universal (home of Frankenstein and Dracula) gave Hopper a million to make The Last Movie.
 

 
Hopper planned to make his movie-within-a-movie 14,000 feet up the Peruvian Andes, in a tiny village called Chinchero, which should have made the accountants nervous, not just because of the logistics involved in transporting crew, actors, and film gear to this faraway location, but because Peru was one of the world’s leading producers of cocaine. But as Hopper had signed up for a small salary and a share of the profits, Universal agreed. However, a hint of what was to come during the filming was witnessed by some of the press, who accompanied cast and crew on the flight out, as Hopper and co. started passing round the inordinately large supply of in-flight drugs.

But this was only the start, as on arrival Hopper pissed off the Peruvian government and the Catholic church by proselytizing about the joys of marijuana and speaking out in support of homosexuality. Of course, he was right on both counts, but it meant he had two major enemies determined to have this “hippie revolutionary” kicked out of their country. Government spies were sent into Chinchero to watch the filming in the hope of finding evidence to deport Hopper. Understandably, this did not help the already paranoid auteur.

As described in Robert Sellers’ book Hollywood Hellraisers, drugs were cheap in Peru, and “within hours of arriving a crew hand managed to score some cocaine, seven dollars for a packet that cost ten times that in the States. By the first evening some thirty members of the crew were sniffing the stuff, or smoking grass or dropping acid.”
 

There were wild parties a plenty…. One actor chained a girl to a post because she looked like Joan of Arc and he wanted to re-enact the saint’s immolation. There was also a rumor that another actor almost died when he took too many peyote buds at once.

 
Hopper managed to get a priest defrocked after involving him in a drug-fueled mass for James Dean, while the locals stripped a horse clean of its meat after it was killed in a riding accident. Filmmaker Kit Carson described the filming:
 

That whole shoot, that was one of the most out-of-control situations I’ve ever seen.

 
But Hopper was professional, and finished filming on time and under budget—it was the editing that was to cause his biggest problem. Hopper moved to Taos, New Mexico, to put the whole film together. This was when Universal started seriously worrying about what they had actually paid for. Major arguments ensued, and Hopper went slowly mad in Taos under the influence of drugs and drink. Remarkably he did finish and deliver The Last Movie, which says much for his tenacity, but still, Universal were horrified.

One executive said to Dennis, ‘Great, so you made an artistic film. What are we supposed to do, kill you? Only a dead artist makes money. We’ll only make money on this picture if you die.’ Dennis was livid. ‘Don’t talk to me like that. You’re talking to a paranoiac.’ And he wasn’t joking.

Hopper had made a million-dollar European art house movie for a company who mainly made mass entertainment. His close buddy, Jack Nicholson, was supportive of Hopper, but thought he gone about the whole thing the wrong way:

You don’t take someone’s bread and then walk across the street and say “Fuck you.”

The Last Movie won the Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival, but bombed in America with both audiences and critics. Though it’s an indulgent movie, with a rather simplistic message, I’m still glad Hopper made it, as it pushed the boundaries of what could be made in Hollywood. Unfortunately, it ended Hopper’s career for the next ten years.

So that’s the back story to this little clip of a slightly bombed Hopper, who having won his award still knows what Universal and the critics think of his film, as he discusses The Last Movie with baseball player Willie Mays, actors James Brolin and Diane Baker, on The Merv Griffin Show from 1971.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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