Monday, December 31, 2007

The Ross Sisters

Get Bent Out of Shape Over Potato Salad

My friend Cody sent me this amazing YouTube clip that shows triplet gals contorting themselves while singing a silly song about making solid potato salad:

The Ross Sisters mash the potato

The YouTube video had no other information about the flexible sisters or what movie the clip was from, simply saying "Potato Salad." My inner librarian had to know, so I did some research and found out it's The Ross Sisters - Aggie, Maggie and Elmira (who for some reason did not use their real-life names of Vicki, Dixie and Betsy Ross - though I can understand Betsy not wanting to be confused with the comparatively non-athletic Betsy Ross who sewed the first American flag!) - performing "Solid Potato Salad" from the 1944 MGM musical Broadway Rythym. This clip also appears in That's Entertainment! III (1994). Why these singing-dancing-contorting sisters weren't as big as the contortionally challenged Andrew Sisters, is beyond me.

Anyway, that's some potato salad recipe, one that requires the gals to literally jump through hoops. As the folks at VideoSift describe it: "It's Hee-Haw meets Cirque du Soleil!...Never before has the human body been twisted into such extraordinary positions in service to the American Potato Salad Industry." Talk about T & A (Taters & Acrobatics)!

Thinking I had seen these gals before (I mean, how many Hollywood films had triplets in them?), I tried to figure how a script writer would fit them into a film narrative. By matching them with three other freaks - like The Three Stooges! I recalled that in their classic short Gents without Cents (the one in which the boys do their "Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch..." routine), the boys put on a show at a shipyard with three acrobatic dancers named Mary, Flo and Shirley. But it turns out that this was yet another trio of contortionist hoofers (what are the odds?): Lindsay, LaVerne and Betty (Lindsay Bourquin - pictured at right, Laverne Thompson and Betty Phares). 1944 was a big year for this trio; in addition to performing at USO shows for servicemen, they also appeared in the films Showboat Serenade and Youth Aflame.

But Broadway Rhythm was the lone celluloid appearance for The Ross Sisters who were born too soon to take advantage of the Twister game craze that started in 1969. They could have landed a lucrative product endorsement contract from the folks at Hasbro!

Of course in today's world, girls who can contort themselves - and are not gymnasts or ballet dancers of some sort - are pretty much considered freaks with a lascivious edge. Like porn star Vanessa Lane (pictured at right), whose ability to wrap herself into a human pretzel has enabled her to invent new sexual positions beyond the wildest dreams of The Kama Sutra.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vag-tastic Voyage

Superbad and Porn-Friendly Mainstream Movies

I watched the super funny Superbad last night and while the script by Seth Rogan (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) and Evan Goldberg is strictly a "high school hijinx for the porn generation" affair, I'm a sucker for puerile dick-and-fart joke vulgarity when it's done right, and it's done right in Superbad. But I was initially confused by one of the DVD extras, and feel embarrassed to admit I didn't get it at first. I'm referring to the "The Vag-tastic Voyage" clip (available only on the unrated extended edition) in which a guy in a van picks up two babes, offers them money to fool around, and them dumps them back on the road - your basic 4-F Club routine.

It took me a while to remember that was the name of the porn website Seth (Jonah Hill) was thinking about joining at the beginning of Superbad. But I'm even more embarrassed that I didn't get what real-life porn site it was mocking: The Bang Bros.,

who produce an "amateur" line called Bang Bus in which they stop and offer money to young nubiles in exchange for some wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am action in the rumble seat.

I guess maybe I've seen too many sites adhere to this male fantasy plot narrative for any one to stand out. Nor did I recognize the two women in this spoof, real-life porn stars Jenna Haze and AVN's 2003 Female Performer of the Year Aurora Snow. How I could I possibly have missed Jenna Haze, whose work I've always admired? (Maybe because she looks like every other coed at my alma mater Towson University? Or maybe I psychologically suppressed my Total Recall synapses because I didn't want my girlfriend to hear me shout enthusiastically "Hey, that's Jenna Haze!" - I mean, she was already annoyed that I watched the clip twice, once with freeze-frame).

Jenna Haze (pictured at right) even mentions her mainstream cameo on her MySpace page:

Wow! I was totally stoked to just have been in the movie for 2 seconds or whatever but now the DVD is out! And I am so excited to say that there is a bonus feature with me on the second disc of the 2-disc UNRATED extended edition!! Isn't that cool? It's called the Vagtastic Voyage! The feature is about a minute or so and also has my friend Matthew in it and Aurora Snow, who as you all know is also a filthy smut siren like myself.

Jenna Haze knows all about mainstream crossover; before her 60 seconds of backseat fame on the Superbad, she was one of the featured cast in HBO's short-lived (5 episodes?) reality TV show Pornocopia: Going Down in the Valley (2004).

Pornucopia: Down and Out

Then, searching the 'net for info on "Vag-Tastic," I came across some bulletin board where a poster named "nobody" observed that the porn-friendly tone of Superbad was consistent with a number of Judd Apatow-produced films:

From an auteur perspective, this continues the theme of porn mocking/homage in Apatow produced films (and yeah I know, Apatow didn't direct or write Superbad, but clearly his stamp is on the flick). 40 Year Old Virgin had the box of porn, and the dream sequence with real life porn star Stormy Daniels. Knocked-Up obviously featured the poor imitation of Mr. Skin's website....and now we have "Vag-Tastic Voyage." Also, like 40 Year Old Virgin," "Vag-Tastic Voyage" features real life porn stars Aurora Snow and Jenna Haze, which demonstrates Apatow's fondness for casting the real thing in his flicks. Perhaps he likes bringing a bit of edginess/reality to the roles...or maybe he just likes having porn stars on the set for a day.

Hmmmm, excellent point, Mr. Nobody. But you forgot to mention that Knocked-Up also featured an appearance by Asian porn star Nautica Thorn (or at least her backside) as a lap dancer, along with Stormy Daniels - again! (Apatow must really like her!).

Apatow Faves Stormy Daniels and Nautica Thorn

By the way, like Jenna Haze, Nautica Thorn has also had experience with crossover exposure, having been a regular (along with Chanel St. James, Kirsten Price and Sasha Knox) on the UK-based reality TV show My Bare Lady, which aired over here on the Fox Reality TV channel.

Nautica and Stormy lapdancing in Knocked-Up

Actually, the "Vag-tastic Voyage" was nothing special, just a curious extra that literally jumps out at viewers when Jenna Haze pops her top and breaks through the fourth wall into unrated viewing territory. So why am I going on about this? I guess because it got me to thinking about the Hollywood-Porno Chic phenomena. There seem to be a number of Hollywood directors who either dig porn or just want to give porn stars cameos in their movies so they can meet them, much like their Heavy Metal and Hip-Hop musician counterparts.

Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel, Hostel 2) immediately comes to mind; I don't find his horror movies particularly scary, but they can be downright tittilating. I mean, Hostel is filled wall-to-wall with Eastern European babe-age, much of it of the stripper/porn star variety. I remember reading an interview in which Roth confided, "I’m in Europe with a movie camera. You think I’m not going to film any naked chicks? I held a casting session where we saw 66 strippers and porn stars in 2 days, and it wasn’t just for one role." The best Bad Girl cameo was courtesy of Paula Wild, a Czech porn star who moonlights as a singer (check out her YouTube video Paula Wild Zpiva).

Czech porn star Paula Wild lives up to her name in HOSTEL

The South Park boys, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, also spring to mind, as their "joint" effort Orgazmo (1997) must certainly hold the record for featuring the most porn stars cameos.

The head count includes Max Hardcore as an award show presenter and Christi Lake, Jeanna Fine, Davia Ardell, Jacklyn Lick, Ruby Diamond, Melissa Hill, Serenity, Melissa Monet, Chasey Lane, Juli Ashton, and T. Rex - a real-life porn curioddity (see clip below) who also appeared HBO's Pornucopia series.

Achieving T. Rex-tasy in Orgazmo

Oh, did I forget to mention the Hedgehog being in Orgazmo?. Maybe that's because certain adult film stars, like Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson, have achieved enough crossover rep that we don't raise an eyebrow when we see them in mainstream films.

Jameson was famously in Howard Stern's Private Parts, but even before that she had a regular hosting gig on the E! channel. And Jeremy has been in countless mainstream films, most notably Orgazmo (1997), as well as the documentary The Legend of Ron Jeremy. The Hedgehog's mainstream C.V. also includes Ghostbusters 1984), Feast (1992), Killing Zoe (1994), Meet Wally Sparks (1997), 54 (1998), The Boondock Saints (1999), Detroit Rock City (1999), Reindeer Games (2000), Fast Sofa (2001), The Rules of Attraction (2002), Terror Firmer (2004, a film that also features Baltimore's Berserk on the soundtrack, the legendary pop-punkers whose bass player was none other than Vincent Libretti lookalike Dave Cawley), Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2004) and The Aristocrats (2005). Not to mention his stint on the reality TV series The Surreal Life. (The only other male porn star to cross over to TV Land was Seymore Butts (Adam Glasser) in HBO's reality TV series Family Business, although some mainstream TV actors, like Jack Baker - whose C.V. included Bill "Sticks' Downey on Happy Days - went the other way into adult films!)

Here's Ron Jeremy's big scene with Chasey Lain (L) Juli Ashton (R) in Orgazmo:

Of course Traci Lords is a former porn star who managed to successfully cross over to the point where I forget she was a porn star. I initially think of her as starring in John Waters' Cry-baby (1990), Jim Wynorski's Not of This Earth, and as the non-Tommy part of Stephen King's The Tommyknockers (1993). And as Rikki Abbott on Melrose Place and Sharon Lesser on Profiler. (OK, maybe I remember a little bit of her old naughty persona in Traci, I Love You, too!)

The (T & ) A List

Other notable mainstream films that feature porn stars:

Boogie Nights (1997)

Paul T. Anderson's look inside the adult film included featured billing for Nina Hartley (below, left) as William Macy's slutty wife (memorable for her nonchalant responses to being caught in bed with other men: "What do you mean, 'What are I doing'? I have a cock in my pussy!"), as well as cameos by fellow Old Schooler Veronica Hart (as Judge Katleen O'Malley), Lil' Cinderella (whose as Amber Hunter played Colonel James' lady friend), Summer Cummings, Skye Blue, Tony Tedeschi, and (I'm not kidding) "Joe Sausage." Even the Dirk Diggler character was loosely based on the career of Johnny Wadd, the legendary John C. Holmes.

Nina Hartley gives her backing to Boogie Nights

Very Bad Things (1998)

Very Bad Things featured porn star Kobe Tai (shown at right, who was billed as "Carla Scott" - her birth name being Carla Scott Carter) as a stripper/hooker who gets accidentally impaled on a door hook during a bachelor's party. I remember being really excited seeing her in the film, but since then Kobe's career kind of petered out; she had a baby in 2000 and retired from the adult industry in 2001, though she's appeared on cable TV's The Man Show a number of times. She apparently likes video games and even appeared in a Tony Hawks skateboarding video called The End. The video also featured several other porn stars in the same segment Kobe was in. Kobe also sang backup on Marilyn Manson's song, "I Don't Like the Drugs, But the Drugs Like Me", on the album Mechanical Animals. The 35-year-old mom (now officially a MILF) has a MySpace page, where her slogan is "Asians do it better!" I couldn't agree with this classy lassy more!

Kobe plays a hooker who gets impaled in Very Bad Things

The Big Liebowski (1998)

In The Big Lebowski, Bunny Lebowski appears in a porn film called Logjammin' with Karl Hungus (the porn name of Peter Stormare’s character) with '90s Asian porn superstar Asia Carrera (real name: Jessica Andrea Steinhauser). Carrera's role was uncredited, as was her performance as Jennifer Tilly's "body double" in the 2001 movie Fast Sofa (which also featured another cameo by Ron Jeremy!). She's in good company, as '70s and '80s adult star Annette Haven provided the uncredited stunt torso for the shower scene at the end of Brian DePalma's Body Double (1984). Body doubling used to be the only way porn actresses could cross over into mainstream films until the last 10 years, when it apparently has become fashionable and chic.

Asia Carrera: Give this body credit!

Related Links:
List of Porn Stars Appearing in Mainstream Films (Wikipedia)
Superbad (IMDB)
Bang Bros. (Wikpedia)
Bang Bus (Wikipedia)
Stormy Daniels (IMDB)
"Vagtastic" definition (Urban Dictionary)
"Vagtastic Voyage" (Urban Dictionary)


Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Goof on the Roof

Bird-Brain Raven Fan As Lame As His Team

The Jig Is Up for "Rooftop Ron" Stack, who bravely took time off from skittish employment to whore himself for publicity

First my girlfriend mentioned him, then my friend Scott "Unpainted" Huffines ("Huffines Has It!") e-mailed me about him, complaining about his lameness. The subject of all this buzz was an occassionally employed construction worker named Ron Stack (sic), who perched himself atop a Canton bar and vowed to stay there until either the Baltimore Ravens (currently on a 9-game losing streak) won a game or fired coach Brian Billick. And thus, in a dreadful football season in which there's little positive to talk about, the so-called "Goof on the Roof" became an overnight celebrity (but has he been on Marty Bass' show yet? That's the true test of Ravens dedication and celebrity.)

"He was no goof," Scott (pictured left) wrote. "It used to be you had to be on a roof for months! This dude was on the roof TWO DAYS and gets the front page of the Sun, expecting to be off the roof if we beat Miami. We lose, he gets stuck up there for like 2 weeks - He doesn't even stick it out til the end of the season on Sunday! He left Xmas day. He deserved to be arrested for just being a lameass. In the olden days you had to earn your cred."

Huffine's Has It!
Scott's complaint has merit, as the rooftop ordeal of "Ron Stack" (real name Ronald Stach) is hardly the stuff of Into the Wild "roughing it" proportions. Besides the media attention, it included such perks as a pup tent, two heaters, five meals a day and all the beer he could drink (and construction workers sure can drink!), courtesy of the not-publicity-adverse owner of the bar below, on whose roof he perched.

Stach's sacrifice certainly pales compared to previous sports-related vigils in this town, like the bartender who in 1991 perched himself on a Dundalk rooftop for 23 days to protest a feud between then-Orioles owner Eli Jacobs and then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer over the naming of our baseball stadium. Or compared to 98 Rock DJ Bob Rivers, who stayed on the air continuously for 11 days until the Baltimore Orioles ended their American League record-setting 0-21 losing skein at the start of the 1988 season.

Unlike those sports fan diehards, Stach's vigil wasn't all it was Stack-ed up to be. Though Rooftop Ron claimed to be a construction worker, everyone knows construction workers don't work in the Winter - that's why you'll find them drinking up a storm and sticking $5 bills in stripper's garter belts until the Spring rolls around. And then there was the matter of his name. This dumbass changed the spelling of his name, thinking that was enough to avoid being caught as Deadbeat Dad Ron Stach, the guy with outstanding warrants related to owing over $43,000 in back child support to a Dundalk woman. I love this line in Rosen's article: "He's also single, so no one at home is second-guessing his shenanigans."

Well, that Dundalk woman he had a child with, Kelly Strach, begs to differ. She got miffed from reading about the $500 in Ravens memorabilia Rooftop Ron purchased during his vigil.

Here's the full story from the Baltimore Sun (December 28, 2007):
Roof-bound Ravens fan a deadbeat, ex-wife says
by Gus G. Sentementes, Sun Reporter, December 28, 2007

With each interview that her former husband gave to television and newspapers about his obsession with the Baltimore Ravens, Kelly Stach's frstration grew.

For more than two weeks, the Dundalk woman stood on the sidelines as Ronald Stach - dubbed the "Goof on the Roof" - became a celebrity for camping out atop a Southeast Baltimore bar until the hometown football team snapped its losing streak.

Kelly Stach was determined to expose her former husband, a part-time construction orker, whom she calls a deadbeat dad.

"I just think it's horrible that everyone out there thought he was this geat supporter of the Ravens, and he hasn't supported his own kid in the last 18 years," Kelly Stach said in an interview yesterday.

On Wednesday, Kelly Stach said, she called Baltimore police to let them now that her former husband was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear in court in connection with a child support case, in which court ocuments say he owes her $34,465. That figure is as of 2004, and Kelly

Stach said the amount now is about $43,000.

Police didn't find the 41-year-old Stach on the roof - he came down on Christmas Day for unexplained reasons, according to the bar's owner - but arrested him at a house in Southeast Baltimore.

Police turned Stach over to Baltimore County police, who then handed him over to the county sheriff's department, which served the warrant on him, authorities said. Bail was set yesterday at $42,065, and he was expected to have a bail review today, according to a Baltimore County Detention Center official.

Stach perched on the roof of Canton Station at Conking and O'Donnell streets on Dec. 11, saying he was frustrated with the Ravens' losing ways. He quickly became a novelty in a city whose football team remains strapped in a spell of defeats.

He vowed to not come down until either the Ravens won a game, or coach
Brian Billick got fired. Neither has happened yet.

Bar staff and others visited him, took pictures with him and drank with him. The bar owner, Darren Petty, set him up with a tent, two heaters, five meals a day and all the beer he could drink.

"I tell you what: Any goof who wants to go on this roof, we're going to do a background check from now on," Petty said after learning about the charges yesterday.

Petty said he grew up with Stach in Highlandtown and knew him from the neighborhood.

Petty said he had no idea that Stach had had trouble with his former wife over child support payments. He was surprised to learn yesterday that Stach spelled his name differently than the way the media had published it - as "Stack."

Kelly Stach said she thought the misspelling was to deter reporters and others from reviewing his court record on the Internet.

Stach's presence was a publicity boon for the bar. Petty became accustomed to the sight of television reporters traipsing up to the roof with video cameras and microphones to hear Stach pontificate about the Ravens. A television news crew came from as far as Texas to interview Stach, he said.

"I'm trying to drum up support because a lot of fans are ticked off right now," Stach told a Sun reporter in mid-December.

Petty said he knew that Stach had a teenage son with another woman, but he didn't know about the 18-year-old son he had with Kelly Stach. He said the younger son - and his mother - had come by the bar on several occasions to spend time with Stach on the roof, with no problems.

Petty said he was saddened by Stach's arrest and said Kelly Stach had
called him on Wednesday to question him about her former husband.

After speaking with her, he said he called Stach and asked him about
the allegations, which he said Stach denied.

"He said, 'Darren, if I was in trouble, I'd never sit up on the roof
and have all this media attention,'" Petty said.

"He was probably getting treated up there better than he is now," Petty added. "He got five square meals up there. At the jail, he's probably only getting three."

Kelly Clayton married Ronald Stach in 1990, and they had a son together, she said. They split up when their son was about 7 months old. She said he left him because he refused to work. Warrants for his arrest had been issued three times in the 1990s, charging him with failing to show p in court for hearings on child support payments, Baltimore County court records show. He was sentenced to six months in jail in 1996 for contempt of court, records show.

The latest warrant was issued June 6, the records show. Warrants were also issued for him the previous two years charging him with owing another woman roughly $12,000 in child support payments for their 14-year-old son.

Kelly Stach said her son, who is now 18, is attending college full-time now, and has "huge, huge, huge" expenses.

That's why when she saw her former husband talking about how he had spent $500 on Ravens memorabilia and clothing, she said to herself in frustration: "He can pay all that money for Ravens stuff, but he can't pay $50 a week for child support?"

As Bill Ondine blogged for the Sun, other possible headlines for Stach's media blunder could be:

The bum who owes mum.

The jerk who should work

The dope who steals hope

The louse of the house


the fool on the stool

Related links:
"Ravens fan, on a roof, H-O-P-I-N-G" (Sun, 12-13-2007)
"O, by the way" (Bill Ondine, Sun, Decemeber 28, 2007)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Jay Walking Down Project Runway

Scott Wallace Brown Joins the Walk of Fame

After reading my blog post about how much Dave Cawley resembles metrosexual designer Vincent Libretti of Project Runway - Season 3, Adele Marley sent me an e-mail reminding me of how much her boyfriend, Scott Wallace Brown, resembles designer Jay McCarroll, the "Wild Card" winner of Project Runway - Season 1 (as pictured below).

It's true (!), as the pictures below attest (that's SWB on the bottom, dressed up as Jay McC for Halloween):

Ahoy mateys! Jay McCarroll (top) and Scott Wallace Brown (bottom) show off Pirate Chic on "Project Plankway"

What's more, the Simpsons-style cel animated SWB also kind of resembles the stop-motion puppet animated Heat Miser from the Rankin/Bass TV classic The Year Without a Santa Claus!

But I think it's really bizarre that two friends of mine have clones on the same reality TV show. Or should I say, Bizarro, because I'm starting to think we live in a Bizarro Superman world, one where everyone has a doppleganger on a TV show. And usually of opposite sexual preferences. Though Vincent Libretti is married-with-children, I just think he hasn't come out yet, and Jay McCarroll is openly way gay. As are my TV doppelgangers, the flamboyantly gay Carson Kressely of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and tennis commentator Martina Navratilova:

Call me Carsina Navratilova!(That's me in the middle.)

An SOB Christmas

Dunkin' Donuts with the Bagel Boys

They like bagels and they like bikes.

Christmas Day. I'm meeting my friend - and Vincent Libretti Tribute Artist - Dave Cawley (pictured right) at the Lutherville Dunkin' Donuts for our annual Holiday Gift Exhange/Potlatch. As my long-suffering girlfriend Amy and I approach the entrance, we notice the parking lot is crammed with shiny chrome motorcycles ("America runs on Dunkin'" - apparently even its Easy Riders). Uh-oh, we gasp, are we gonna have to rub elbows with an unruly biker gang inside? (I secretly count my blessings that I didn't don my usual metrosexual headgear, a Scottish Tam topped with fuzzy pom ball) and walk in, expecting the worst. But all is well, as the bikers seem a genial sort not likely to dunk a mild-mannered librarian (me), a meek Baltimore County records clerk (Amy), or a wild-eyed insurance claims adjuster (Dave) while we are enjoying our donuts. In fact, our apprehension turns to amusement when Amy points out the gang's logo on the back of one member's jacket: "SOB, Semites on Bikes," accompanied by a grinning shades-and-yarmulke adorned skull head.

I was relieved by this sign of light-hearted humor, because at this point a well-caffeinated Dave was boisterously raving about why Jack "King" Kirby was the greatest comic book artist of his generation and what a "crime against humanity" it was that his DC Comic editors "re-drew" his Superman heads to conform with DC Code - the kind of fan-boy talk that one would expect badass biker dudes to find perhaps a tad "geeky." But no, they were a jovial crew, merrily chowing down on bagels and lox and having a decidedly cool yule amidst Lutherville's goyem.

Kirb Your Enthusiasm: King Kirby deconstructed by Archoids

What a happy happenstance running into these guys! I had never heard of this gang, but when I got home and Googled "Semites on Bikes," I saw that the Baltimore City Paper's best gal reporter, Violet Glaze, wrote a great profile of the SOBs last year ("Gimme Shtetl," City Paper, 11/1/2006). I should have known, as Violet seems to be one step ahead of most people when it comes to Baltimore pop culture.

But there was more merriment just outside the window, as we turned to spot a long-haired middle-aged man in running shorts and what appeared to be big boxing gloves on his hands "prancing" (you certainly couldn't call this "running" or even "jogging") down the sidewalk with a most unusual gait.

"Look Tom," Dave said, "It's Pony Man." The name was no doubt a reference to the way this curious man picked up his feet like a clip-clopping pony, but could also have referred to his mulleted hair, which flopped up and down like an over-excited pony tail. "I see him sometimes when I'm running at the Dulaney High track. He's a character," Dave observed with unusual understatement.

Secure that we were among friends, we concluded our discussion about Jack Kirby (who could have been a SOB, given his birth name of Jacob Kurtzberg) and proceeded with our gift exchange. Dave gave me the perfect "occupational hazard" book, Don Borchart's buzz-worthy expose of the trials of tribulations of public librarians, Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library. This "Library Confidential" is the talk of the library world (an exciting place to live, Earth peoples!) and deservedly so, but even "normal" (non-librarian) people dig it. Dave admitted that he read it himself before wrapping it for me (and I thought I was the only one who "previewed" Christmas gifts!).

And, knowing Dave's Bantam Boy Interests, I gave him a spy book, a Honey West pulp paperback, a Mutt & Jeff comics collection and, saving the best for last, the Holy Grail of discarded library promotional materials: a mullet-era Michael Bolton "Read Books" poster for the American Library Association. I don't think Dave was as excited by this score as I was. Clearly embarrassed, he quickly covered up the oversized poster and hid it under our table.

"Gee thanks," he said, "I'll be sure to put this up in my cubicle at work. I'm sure my Celine Dion-loving co-worker will be so jealous."

When I asked Dave what his girlfriend was getting him for Christmas, he mentioned her sister was making him a Gingerbread House modeled after Hunt Valley Mall. Now that's an ambitious project! Not only that, but kaiju eiga-loving Dave had even requested that his prospective sister-in-law add a menacing Godzilla figure to tower over the gingerbread diarama. Leave it to Dave to add a terroryaki touch to his holiday treat. (Actually, someone's already posted a YouTube clip of Godzilla attacking a gingerbread house; I guess great minds think alike!)

After Amy finished her fourth donut ("Save a little room for Christmas dinner!" I suggested), we bid one another adieu, with Dave making sure he covered Michael Bolton's beaming mug with as much wrapping paper as possible as he made his way out the door.

"God, I hope no one sees me with this!" he muttered with holiday "cheer," as he walked briskly to his "vintage" Toyota with a pace that would easily have overtaken Prancing Pony Man.

As my friend Cody commented upon hearing this tale, "Oh, when will the harsh and unrelenting humiliation of Dave Cawley ever end?"

Don't hold your breath, Cody! As Linus told Charlie Brown, "That's what Christmas is all about."

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Blade Runner, Final Cut

Still More Human Than Human, 25 Years Later

I saw a beautiful 35mm print of Blade Runner - The Final Cut on its final night at the Senator Theatre last night. What's left to be said about Ridley Scott's masterpiece - my favorite film of all time - that hasn't already been said (most recently in the documentaries and commentary tracks of the just released 4- and 5-disc Collector's Edition DVD box sets)?. 25 years and countless versions later, it's still the same old story: a tale of love and gory, an ontological case of do or die. It's a film that asks the questions we all ask at some point: "Who are we? Where are we going? How long have we got?" A film in which the only distinction between humans and artificial Replicants is the ability to feel emotional empathy (a line blurred these days by the diagnosis - and prevalence - of Asberger's Syndrome). A film about what makes life precious and death and loss so painful. It's a film that still makes me cry every time I experience it.

I first saw Blade Runner with my sister in 1982 at the old Timonium Theater. We loved it, sitting there in awe after the end credits rolled. These were the days before video (that pre-DVD format we Baby Boomers embraced in the mid-'80s), so there was no video (much less DVD), Internet download or On Demand option to see it again. This was the "buy your ticket, enjoy the show," one-and-done era of real-time entertainment. So we sat there and watched it again. And were still talking about it after seeing it the second time.

Everything in this movie (with the lone exception of the studio tacked-on "happy" ending in the original theatrical version) is perfect. The future noir look, the Vangelis music, the clothes, the special effects, the dialogue, the acting, the sets, the design, the architecture, the final denouement in LA'S Bradbury building (which also provided the setting for a memorable Outer Limits episode, "Demon with a Glass Hand"). But the Godhead of this film was in the details. The iconic owl, the Mayan temple-looking Tyrell Corporation building and Deckard's apartment (both based on Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis-Brown House), the square glasses Deckard quaffes his whiskey from - even his multi-colored, multi-patterned shirt. I remember my sister found me a similar "Blade Runner" shirt (very dated now!) at Macy's and gave it to me that Christmas. (I wore that thing until it was threadbare!)

You could argue (and I certainly do) that all the actors involved did their best career work in Blade Runner. Though he didn't care for the film and purposedly tried to sabotage his voiceover narration in the theatrical release, Harrison Ford is asked to act in this one, and does so admirably, presenting a confused, conflicted, vulnerable - and not very attractive - character.

When Doves Cry: Rutger Laments This Mortal Coil

Though ostensibly the Bad Guy, Rutger Hauer is the true hero of this movie as the fallen angel Replicant Roy Batty who wants "more life father/fucker!" Hauer never equaled this performance; this was his Hamlet, and he apparently added much to the role, suggesting the dove-in-hand scene and much of his dialogue (e.g., the "Like tears in rain" soliloquy). Gotta love the William Blake quotes, too. But his greatest contribution is the way Hauer expresses the anger that Roy feels faced with his and his loved ones' imminent demise. Seeing Priss die, he becomes Everyman, as he/we feel cheated by our Creator for the brevity of our alloted time in a rat race in which the stopwatch can't be reset. By the final reel Roy's anger passes into an appreciation for the preciousness of life despite its brevity (he lets Deckard live), an appreciation that is decidedly human, suggesting that perhaps these replicants are not so different from flesh-and-blood mortals after all (maybe they are, as Tyrell describes them, "more human than human").

Sean Young is presented here in pre-psycho mode and while I also thought she was good in No Way Out, she never topped this role - no, not even as cross-dressing Lt. Lois Einhorn in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective!

The inevitability of the expiration of our mortal coil in the film's grand finale ("Time to die") again made me think of my sister, who passed away last year, and of one small "movie magic" moment we shared at the Timonium Theater. At this time of year, when families gather for the holidays, thoughts inevitably turn to those loved ones we have lost. Roy pines for Priss. Leon for Zhora and his precious photographs. Families for their depleted ranks. All we're left with are our memories - real or imagined. My memories of Blade Runner remain and they're good ones, 25 years on.

My words can't do justice to Blade Runner. But I do recommend the Blade Runner 4-Disc Collector's Edition review by the always excellent Glen Erickson of DVD Savant and Paul Sammon's definitive book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bumper Sticker of the Day

Driving into work today I was behind the ultimate redneck mobile, an Isuzu pick-up truck driven by a guy in a cowboy hat and plastered with pro-NRA, pro-Veteran, pro-American patriotism bumper stickers. This could easily have been the pick-up that blew away Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper at the end of Easy Rider. But at least one sticker didn't frighten me, making me laugh instead:
SPOONS made Rosie O'Donnell fat!

It's a variation on this t-shirt:

Twisted logic, to be sure, but what do you expect from an NRA nutjob? His gun may be fully loaded but, as my friend (and Vincent Libretti lookalike) Dave Cawley (pictured below) likes to say, when you engage in a battle of wits with people like this, you have the advantage because your opponent is always unarmed.

Dave Cawley sez: "I'd challenge you to a battle of wits, sir, but I'd be fighting an unarmed opponent!"