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Sharon Tate’s Don’t Make Waves

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Yes, Woodstock, but last week also saw the 40th anniversary of LA’s darkest campfire tale.  You probably know the story by now (and if you don’t, you can read about it here, or here), but the shorthand goes like this…

On the night of August 8, 1969, Charles Manson disciples Susan Atkins, Charles “Tex” Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian stormed the rented home of Roman Polanski on 10050 Cielo Drive.  Once behind its gates, they brutally and systematically took the lives of 5 people—including the life of Polanski’s eight-and-a-half months pregnant girlfriend, actress Sharon Tate.  Tate was the last to die, knived by Watson while she was pinned down by Atkins, who then took some of Tate’s blood and used it to scrawl “PIG” on the porch wall.  Manson had ordered her to leave behind a sign, “something witchy.”

The tragic events of that night, spilled into the following night and continued to ripple out through the decade(s) to come.  Even today, the events of August ‘69 provided Pynchon with the darkly seismic backdrop to his new novel, Inherent Vice.  The fallout was felt everywhere—even I had nightmares.  Not about the events themselves (I was too young to remember those), but about Manson someday going free, and moving down the block

After losing his wife and unborn child, Polanski was understandably devastated, and his life, eight years later, would go on to take another troubled turn.  And Sharon Tate’s legacy?  Beyond a still-loyal fanbase, all she left behind is a smattering of films and the promise of what might have been.  And that promise, in my eyes, is at its most tangible in Tate’s American debut, Don’t Make Waves
 
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What’s it all about?  Not much beyond The Byrds’ winning title track and Tony Curtis’ “Carlo Cofield” moving to Malibu and mixing it up with the town’s free-lovin’ oddballs.  It was directed by Brit Alexander Mackendrick, a decade past his Sweet Smell of Success, and features one of my all-time favorite character actors, the criminally underappreciated Robert Webber.  Curtis and Webber aside, though, it’s Tate who steals the show as the always-bikinied skydiver, “Malibu.”  In fact, Tate made such a strong impression, she served as the inspiration for Mattel’s “Malibu Barbie.”
 
A physical copy of Waves is hard to come by.  But you can still catch it for yourself, in its 10-part entirety, on YouTube.  Part 1 starts right here.  The trailer follows below.

 
In The LA Times: Restoring Sharon Tate

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Inherent Vice: The Infomerical

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Thomas Pynchon‘s largely well-received 7th novel, Inherent Vice, drops today and if you’re still unsure as to whether or not it’s worth your while, Jason Boog over at Galley Cat cobbled together a “commercial” of sorts using “vintage footage of 1970s California, private detectives, old-time computers, and some choice passages” from the novel itself.  Whether or not it persuades you to plop down your $15.37, I’m always fascinated by how Pynchon inspires the type of fanaticism that yields such DIY projects as Zak Smith’s illustrated Gravity’s Rainbow, or home-movie versions of The Crying of Lot 49.  The internet certainly makes it easier to indulge all this (see today’s already thriving Inherent Vice wiki), but apparently Pynchon needs the web just as much as the web needs him.  Searching for just the right Vice cover, Pynchon found his surfboard-toting hearse here.

 

 
Updated, Pynchon speaks: The Penguin Group USA just released an Inherent Vice promo piece featuring “unconfirmed” voice-over work from the man himself!  Keep watching until the very end, though, where Pynchon mocks the high cost of his own book, and sighs, “That used to be like 3 weeks of groceries, man!  What year is this again?”
 

 
(Thanks, Frank Smith!)

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7 Days To Vice!

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One of my more interesting vacations involved a weekend in Palm Desert with Thomas Pynchon‘s just-released Mason & Dixon.  Fueled by coffee, date shakes and excitement, I plowed through that book’s 773 pages in 3 days, and emerged from it shaken…dazzled…moved.  Yep, moved.  What seems to get lost in the shuffle when those of us who still talk about Pynchon talk about Pynchon is how gracefully he can knit together a moment of Maximum Emotional Devastation.  I’m thinking now of Mason receiving comfort from his estranged son in the wake of Dixon’s death, or Zoyd Wheeler’s understanding that after so many wrong turns in life, in coming to Vineland, he was finally, FINALLY, guiding his family somewhere right—and good.  I could go on and on, and probably will, when next Tuesday sees the release of Pynchon’s seventh book, Inherent Vice.  The early reviews are in, and they do look promising—especially if you’ve been waiting for a Pynchonian take on Raymond Chandler set in the very beach towns where he presumably composed Gravity’s Rainbow.

And if you’re interested in that book’s construction, you might want to check out
A Journey Into The Mind Of [p].  The more interesting parts of Fosco Dubini’s (!) documentary trace Pynchon’s footsteps all the way to the apartment he was living and writing in.  The least interesting parts revolve around the chase for the man himself.
I mean, we (old fans) all know what he looks like by now, don’t we?!

Louis Menand on Inherent Vice in The New Yorker

Tim Martin on Inherent Vice in The Telegraph

Oh, and big FYI: the Inherent Vice wiki goes live next Tuesday morning!

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