Monday, October 25, 2010

The Rainbeaux Connection

Eight years ago today, beloved actress and musician Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith died of complications from liver disease and hepatitis. But only a small number of people knew about it. Despite such achievements as auditioning for the role of Iris in TAXI DRIVER, and being recruited a member of The Runaways in their final days, it was almost over two weeks before national media even took notice of her passing. The heartbreaking tragedy of her final days and unacknowledged passing was greatly upsetting to me, and so I wrote my observations into an essay, "Rainbeaux's Goodbye", which I initially just sent to friends as an email but eventually found its way to her friends and family, and was ultimately posted at a tribute site.

Normally, I would repost the whole thing here at my blog, but you know what? I would rather drive the web traffic and the hits over to her site. There's lots of other reminiscences and tribute from fans and friends alike to be found there, and since my ultimate goal is to get you, the reader, to learn as much about her as possible, they will do a better job than I possibly can. (Be warned: the main page plays "Butterfly Kisses" and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Look, some people genuinely like that damn song. So just turn down the volume and read the links.)

In the eight years since the loss of Rainbeaux, thankfully if belatedly, her profile has grown to a degree. Many of her films have been released to DVD, including what is probably her best performance, LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL, which I recently cited as one of my favorite underrated horror films at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Some that are still absent from DVD, such as SLUMBER PARTY '57 with Debra Winger and the campy MANDINGO sequel DRUM, have popped up on various HD channels in new transfers. Screenings have even taken place, where ardent fans such as Quentin Tarantino and collaborators like Joe Dante have been able to speak to audiences about her appeal.

On a personal level, I've been privileged to befriend her son Justin, whom she was pregnant with during production of REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS, and is even seen at the end after she gave birth to him. He is doing a great job of continuing the family business of artistic expression, both as a musician with the band Calls After Midnight and in the DJ collective atcapacity. He's a talented creative type and a sweet fellow whom I don't get to see nearly enough of. And his devotion to his mother's memory is inspiring.

Unfortunately, in the eight years since her death, we have lost more favorite faces of the '70's...Candice Rialson, Roberta Collins, Tamara Dobson, Tina Aumont, Teresa Graves...drive-in damsels and grindhouse glamour gals who also never quite got their due in film history, or had opportunity to experience a new generation of fans telling them first hand how much their work was appreciated. There are also many others that have retreated from the world...Sarah Holcomb, Sue Lyon, Monica Gayle...with such firm radio silence you can easily imagine the hurt and bad memories that drive them into seclusion, and thus feel even more sad that there's no way to get the message to them that their work made you sincerely happy and that you have not forgotten them and want to offer them your kind words.

If you know a former exploitation starlet in any fashion, living in isolated anonymity or making some extra money on the autograph circuit, give them a hug now while you can.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Slap Her, She's French

So this is one of those occasions where the "adult content" filter is probably a good thing.

I don't like to pinpoint my ethnic origins, as it is just so much fun to watch people look at my features and scramble to determine from what lineage I may come from. Sure, if you ask me one on one I'll tell you, but only after your best educated guess.

That being said, I'll volunteer this aspect of my youth.

Post-divorce, my mother had an ongoing pattern of
a) doing her damndest to preserve my grasp of French;
b) befriending and attaching herself to almost anyone who also spoke it;
c) doing her damndest to make me be friends with them as well.

Anyhow, for about a year or so she had been socializing with a couple in their late '20's, probably grad students or something. I believe the wife was French and her husband was American. Nice enough folks, I could deal with being in forced company with them.

But I distinctly recall one night we were visiting with them, and they were listening to French music, and the husband pulled out an LP by French writer/jazzbo/provocateur Boris Vian, and played his favorite song, "Fais-moi mal, Johnny." At the time I was unfamiliar with him or his notoriety, but once that chorus kicked in, I knew instinctively something was up, because while my French was not the greatest, I did know "Fais-moi mal" meant "Do me wrong" or "Hurt me bad." I didn't grasp the majority of the song though; I figured it was some sort of ode to a bad boy.

Years go by. I start getting interested in strange and esoteric movies. And I learn an interesting factoid: The infamous '80's rape/revenge drama I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, which of course has been remade and released in theatres this weekend, in fact stole that title from a '60's-era potboiler about interracial dating adapted from a novel by...Boris Vian! Intrigued by this unusual intersection of personal influences, I decide to research this fellow.

And I found a recording of "Fais-moi mal, Johnny" and listened to it properly.



Now, most of you I'm sure do not speak French, so I'm providing a contextual version. Keep in mind this is not a word-for-word translation - I'm trying to make it fit a song meter. I've also provided the original French for counterpoint.

Il s'est levé à mon approche
Debout, il était bien plus p'tit
Je me suis dit c'est dans la poche
Ce mignon-là, c'est pour mon lit

Il m'arrivait jusqu'à l'épaule
Mais il était râblé comme tout
Il m'a suivie jusqu'à ma piaule
Et j'ai crié vas-y mon loup

Fais-moi mal, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Envole-moi au ciel...Zoum!
Fais-moi mal, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Moi j'aim' l'amour qui fait boum!

Il n'avait plus que ses chaussettes
Des bell' jaunes avec des raies bleues
Il m'a regardé d'un œil bête
Il comprenait rien, l'malheureux
Et il m'a dit l'air désolé
Je n'ferais pas d'mal à une mouche
It m'énervait! Je l'ai giflé
Et j'ai grincé d'un air farouche

Fais-moi mal, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Je n'suis pas une mouche...Zoum!
Fais-moi mal, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Moi j'aim' l'amour qui fait boum!

Voyant qu'il ne s'excitait guère
Je l'ai insulté sauvagement
J'y ai donné tous les noms d'la terre
Et encor' d'aut's bien moins courants

Ça l'a réveillé aussi sec
Et il m'a dit arrête ton charre
Tu m'prends vraiment pour un pauve mec
J'vais t'en r'filer, d'la série noire

Tu m'fais mal, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Pas avec des pieds...Zing!
Tu m'fais mal, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
J'aim' pas l'amour qui fait bing!

Il a remis sa p'tite chemise
Son p'tit complet, ses p'tits souliers
Il est descendu l'escalier
En m'laissant une épaule démise

Pour des voyous de cette espèce
C'est bien la peine de faire des frais
Maintenant, j'ai des bleus plein les fesses
Et plus jamais je ne dirai

Fais-moi mal, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Envole-moi au ciel...Zoum!
Fais-moi mal, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Moi j'aim' l'amour qui fait boum!


He stood up when he saw me walk in
So short my chest met his head
Said to myself, it's in the pocket
Take this cute boy to my bed

He only made it to my shoulder
Still quite strong as all get out
We went back into my parlor
And I told him, make me shout

Hurt me now, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Send me to Heaven, make a spark
Hurt me now, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
I want lovin' that leaves a mark

He still had his socks and shoes on
Yellow with blue stripes - how cute
He looked at me with much confusion
He didn't get it, the poor brute

Then he said with his simple grace
I couldn't even hurt a fly
I got so mad I slapped his face
And then I growled with fire in my eye

Hurt me now, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
I'm not a fly, you sap
Hurt me now, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
I want lovin' that leaves a snap

Seeing how he was barely hummin'
I began to curse him rotten
Used every insult I could summon
And some rare ones I'd forgotten

That's when he turned on the anger
Said you need to shut your trap
You must think I'm some dumb wanker
I'll give you a taste of your own crap

No, don't hurt me, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Not with your feet...arrgh
No, don't hurt me, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
I don't want lovin' that goes that far!

He got dressed and fixed his laces
Noticed that eight was the size of his shoes
Out the door, off to the races
Left me alone with my shoulders bruised

Men are thugs with so little class
Try teaching them to make love a new way
I'm black and blue on my face and my ass
And that's the last time that I'll ever say

Hurt me now, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Send me to Heaven, make a spark
Hurt me now, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
I want lovin' that leaves a mark


In short, this song is about an S&M encounter gone very wrong!

Flash back to that evening years ago. My mother doesn't do a goddamned thing! No objections, no shock, no "that was inappropriate, Catherine," no awkward "did you understand that song, Marco" questions, nothing! We're talking the same prude who stopped watching my game show because I pretended to curse on the air, not batting an eye at letting her 10-year-old son listen to a song about a pushy girl getting her clock cleaned. Was she just counting on my French not being good enough to understand it? Was she desperate enough to preserve my bilinguality that any exposure to French culture was worth it?

Look, it's not that I'm ungrateful. The scene that could have transpired would have been quite embarassing and much worse a memory than what I have now. But damn, y'all, this is just one of those moments that don't, I say, just don't add up.

No real moral to this story. Just a reminder that when you go to all your kinky Halloween parties this month, I hope all of you remember your safe words.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What's Entertainment

This past weekend, David Fincher's snappy drama THE SOCIAL NETWORK opened at #1 at the U.S. box office, likely fueled not only by terrific reviews and strong word of mouth, but also by a series of three unique and attention grabbing trailers. That final release trailer, with its use of a children's chorus performance of Radiohead's "Creep" and mouthwatering samples of Aaron Sorkin's trademark rapid dialogue, had many people, including myself, declaring it the best trailer of the year.

Naturally, this led to a few of those bloggers revisiting an ambitious 2009 assembly by the Independent Film Channel's website of the 50 Best Trailers of All Time. Many of the usual suspects are present there - CITIZEN KANE, PULP FICTION, THE SHINING - and a few pleasant wild card surprises - THE MINUS MAN, ZABRISKIE POINT, CORRUPTION. And in turn, this provoked furious debate among readers and professionals alike, and a followup piece was done asking people who actually cut trailers for a living to pick their favorites.

Meanwhile, back in 2008, graphic artist and sometime editor Kate Willaert challenged me to name some of my favorite trailers, and to specifically focus on those for movies that I knew little to nothing about beforehand, but were so captivating that I prioritized having to see them. Those are my favorite kind of trailers after all, something that slaps you around and says, "Watch ME, goddammit!"

Even with that narrow parameter, it's a little tough to pick the top ones. Some are not posted on the web, particularly one of my unsung favorites, Jack Smight's NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY with Rod Steiger and George Segal, though that can be found on Jenni Olsen's indispensible trailer compilation DVD HOMO PROMO. Some are not embeddable, such as Miramax's original trailer for THE CRYING GAME, which did a fantastic job of divulging very little about it's twisty plot while hiding some details in plain sight. And some, like TZAMETI (13), are just a scene from the movie presented out of context, a small taste that made you think "Holy fuck, what's the rest of that movie like?" So this is not necessarily The Best, but after careful but accelerated brainstorming, this is what I came up with, in ascending order:

GHOST WORLD



I knew nothing about the graphic novels, and I didn't peg Terry Zwigoff as the type to do non-documentary film. So seeing all these now-familiar moments for the first time in early 2001 was an exciting revelation, and I was not disappointed when I saw the real thing months later, ultimately declaring it the Best Film of the Year on my infamous Top 13 list.

STUNT ROCK



If nothing else, this is one of the most honest exploitation trailers ever made, for one of the most simplistic movies ever made. You are promised Stunt, and you are promised Rock, and indeed, you get a 120 decibel assault of both Stunt and Rock in Brian Trenchard-Smith's final product. Does that part of the psyche that loves big shit exploding and fist pumping need anything else?

EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC



When one sees this rapid-fire barrage of weird images backed by Ennio Morricone's satanic disco guitar, one is inclined to believe John Boorman's sequel is going to be the greatest horror film they've ever seen. But, almost everyone (except for Martin Scorsese) will tell you that it is in fact one of the worst. But damn, if that isn't some clever salesmanship going on in that trailer. At least I got taken by professionals. Not to mention it predates the coke-fueled aesthetic of Michael Bay by two decades!

SPASMO



This is just one of the most deliriously What The Fucking Fuck trailers I've ever seen, and as such it may be the greatest. You will be hard-pressed to figure out what Umberto Lenzi's mystery is about, but you damn well won't forget that title...no matter how much you want to.

CONTEMPT (LE MEPRIS)



And I think this is my favorite trailer of all time, even more so than Welles' extended "Let's meet the Mercury Theatre" roll call for CITIZEN KANE. Jean-Luc Godard assembled this himself, as he did with most of his early trailers, and cleverly showed you everything that was in this movie without quite telling you how it was going to fit together. I love the dueling narrators, the transposition of adjectives, and oooohhh that Georges Delerue theme. I'm surprised I've never seen another film snot copy or homage it in a subsequent trailer all these years later. Thankfully, I am not alone in my praise: Empire magazine did their own "50 Best Trailers" list in 2003 and included it, albeit only at #39.

If the presentation on this clip seems a litle odd, there is a reason. In all the other existing prints and YouTube copies of this trailer, at the 1:28 mark, the sync between image and narration goes off, because I guess they lost a few flashing frames of "LE MEPRIS" in the negative and never caught it to fix it. But consequently, the picture gets ahead of the narration when they should be matching - i.e., by the time they say "The Stairs, The Promenade, etc" we've already seen them - the narration should end with saying "Fatal..." over Bardot in the black wig, not over the title. I had bugged the powers that be at Rialto Pictures about this to no avail, but the plucky Ms. Willaert simply inserted a few more seconds of title card into the picture and now everything matches again. The minor problem was that her only subtitling option was to use the pop-up balloons. I am hoping sometime, somehow, the people at Rialto or Canal+ will take notice and make the proper fix themselves.

So, amidst the professional opinions and my biased pleasures, let me know if there are favorites none of us have acknowledged. And in the meantime...