Thursday, November 17, 2011

"I've got all the room in the world"

The day before Sunday, July 18th, 1999, I had a birthday. Quite a triple threat, really: my first birthday in Los Angeles, my last birthday of the millenium, and my 30th as well. Displacement, end-of-the-century psychosis, and mid-life crisis all at the same time! So as a gift to myself the following day, since the actual date was consumed working in an undisclosed madhouse, I spent most of the day at a Playboy Expo & Playmate Reunion at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. And the highlight of the visit, among many great conversations and autograph gatherings and a photo with The Man himself, was a surprisingly extended encounter with '69 Playmate and BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOORS star Cynthia Myers. We talked about the movie, other current film, pop music, my career ambitions, her family...a generous amount of personal sharing for a first-time meet. She was rather upset no one informed her of the revival screening I had attended at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood earlier that month of BVD, or of an upcoming full retrospective Russ Meyer festival planned for that September, so I told her I would buy her ticket if she would be my date for the event.

We exchanged email contacts, and while no actual date emerged (since the venue did give her an official guest invite later on), a correspondence and genuine friendship began, that heartbreakingly ended with her untimely passing earlier this month, November 5th. Many generations of men, including my own father, would have been left short for words to have an ongoing line of communication with one of the most lauded Playboy Playmates of all time, so this was a privilege that meant a great deal to me. As such, I figured that perhaps rather than concoct another essay about her significance to the cultural landscape, since there are plenty of very good ones already available, I'd rather just present in our own words, albeit slightly redacted for privacy, some moments to reflect the simple joy of having common ground with the lady behind those iconic images. It's nothing worthy of a Charing Cross Road address, mind you, but it's something you don't see everyday, Chauncey.

July 19, 1999: a proper thank you note post-convention

I can't thank you enough again for the great conversation I had with you today at the Playboy expo and for your autographing my BVD laserdisc. You really helped make a special birthday (my 30th) become even more special.
I don't have exact dates yet for the September Russ Meyer fest, but as soon as I do, I will send them to you. I hope you will still do me the honors of accompanying me.
Meeting you exceeded the highest of my hopes. You're sweet, kind, and deserving of all the good things you've got. Best of love and luck to you.

Hi Marc,
I'm glad I could be part of your birthday celebration...thank you for the info on BVD also I will watch for you to give me the dates and other info!

August 10, 1999: a quick shout-out to me while prepping for a Comic-Con appearance

Hey, Marc,
Get this......the two stars of the "Blair Witch Project" got hired by answering a casting notice in the back of Dramalogue!! That's why I love this crazy business.

November 17, 2007: a condolence note on the passing of her BVD co-star and former husband, Michael Blodgett

I just saw this blog posting from a few days ago about Michael's passing, and I wanted to send my support and love to you. I know that you had a
lot of difficulties in the last stages of your time together, but I'm sure he was a very important part of your life and that this is sad news for you.

Thank you so much for the notice. It is very thoughtful of you. Yes, we had more than our shares of ups and downs but everyone does. It was five years of non-boredom that's for sure!
I can't help my curiosity, do you know how he died??? He drank heavily for many years.

Unfortunately, I don't know any more details. So far, this blog entry is the only source I can locate for his passing - I guess the family hasn't submitted an obituary to the press yet. According to the post, though, the writer is a friend of [name redacted], so maybe you should drop him a note and see if he can tell you more. I don't think he'd mind.
The only thing I remotely know is that [another member of his family] was a member of the video store [I like to shop at], and I heard a few apocryphal stories from the store staff that he would pop in and chat but be very evasive on his whereabouts - there was suspicion he was evading taxes or some other situation.

On a completely different matter, the hot young director Edgar Wright (he made SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, and one of the fake trailers for Quentin Tarantino's GRINDHOUSE) had wanted to screen BVD in December as part of a two-week program of his favorite movies at the New Beverly, but was told by Fox that they are withdrawing the film from circulation. Have you heard anything about this? Are those nasty people that control Russ' estate causing trouble and perhaps Fox is retaliating against them? They claim they no longer have the rights to it, but that sounds fishy considering it was their project in the first place, not one that originated with him.

It's all in Russ' secretary's hands..."Janis"....but she is so foolish, granted her and her boyfriend want to make all the money they can off of Russ, but they sure are NOT doing the right things. They don't even know how to interact with film people to preserve Russ' legacy. EVERYBODY could could be a win win situation!
STILL trying to find out how Blodgett died. You are very perceptive...Michael wrote hundreds, maybe a thousand? bad checks, bullshitted a lot of people and never paid a dime in taxes. I know he was living in Santa Monica hotels. He always stayed there because I think he remembered doing "The Groovy Show" there and it made him feel good.
When I inquired about his death to Erich and he put me in touch (email) with [name redacted], of course I was very polite. She has not answered me yet. Maybe she won't? I just asked if he had had a long illness or maybe a heart attack.
Marc, if you hear anything please let me know....I'm curious if it was his liver....I have never seen anyone drink so hard in my life.

November 20, 2007: verdict arrives

Blodgett died of some form of Hepatitis. Well, he always joked about his liver being donated to the Smithsonian.
Be good, be safe.
Happy Thanksgiving!!

December 4, 2007: complications subside

Edgar Wright was able to pull some strings with Fox and he will be able to screen BVD on the 13th and 14th of this month at the New Beverly for his film festival. (Fox claimed there's some sort of music problem involving Strawberry Alarm Clock that caused them to pull fhe film from circulation, but that sounds fishy). He's pairing BVD up with Bob Rafelson's HEAD starring the Monkees, and Micky Dolenz will be coming to introduce it on the 14th. So it would be an added bonus if you were able to attend that night as well.
Tonight, Edgar is showing BUGSY MALONE with PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, and Paul Williams will be there, so I'm excited for that.

Thanks so much for the update. Paul Williams....Sounds so exciting!
Life is so damn interesting! When you emailed me with the tragic news of Michael Blodgett's death, I went to the IMDB and posted my was read by [a family member] who, in turn, passed it to [another family member]. To make a long story short we have become e mail friends.. if you can imagine that.
I mentioned that I have a friend (you) and you let me know when there will be showings of Dolls and events connected to it. She said she would like to view it with you think the showing your telling me about would be a good one for her and I to attend?
I trust your judgment.
Keep up the excellent work!
Let me know how Paul Williams was...I hope he's a nice person.

The Sunday night show was incredible! The New Beverly was practically sold out. Besides Edgar Wright who was hosting, the other luminaries who showed up included horror director Eli Roth and screenwriter Diablo Cody, whose movie JUNO opens tomorrow and will likely be a big awards contender. Plus, as an added bonus, Wright added a surprise midnight show of ISHTAR to the program, and it was introduced by Quentin Tarantino! Paul was terrific, he spoke a lot about PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (which was presented in a print almost brand new) and his career in general. I was struck by the fact that Paul is 67, but he looks even better than the "old" version of himself during the Faustian portion of PHANTOM. According to Quentin, who sat next to him, Paul had planned just to watch the first part of ISHTAR, since it started late and he's not a midnight person, but he not only stayed to the end, he sang along with all the funny songs he had written for the film. It was 3:30 in the morning when we all finally got out of the theatre, but it was a great time.
Now, when I spoke briefly to Edgar, he said there were still some kinks to work out in screening DOLLS next week, so there's a chance it may not happen. But I will keep you posted on that. So yes, absolutely, if it's a go, you should attend. You'll love Edgar: he's very handsome and energetic and I'm sure he'd get a kick out of meeting you.

What a fantastic turnout!! And, what a wonderful treat for all the fans!
Keep up the great work Marc!

And that, unfortunately, is where the correspondence ends. Part of the losing touch was just us going about our business and not having a real point-of-entry topic to start a new conversation. And, as I've learned in the recent days, a large part was likely the toll that cancer was taking on both her husband and herself; I had not seen her name attached to any of the events she had long been a fixture at, but I had chalked that up to other possible personal reasons besides ill health.

Which brings up the other reason I'm writing about Cynthia. Like many Americans right now, the combined costs of care for herself and her husband wiped out almost all their assets. The family does not have enough money to even pay for her cremation or for a chapel to hold a service, so a very generous friend and fellow Playmate is raising the funds to give her a proper sendoff. And they're pretty close to their goal, so I would like to play a role in putting them over the top. So if you have been reading as a fellow fan or just from a name-curiosity search, any dollar amount, even literally one dollar, that you can add to the till would be welcome.

Thank you, Cynthia, for large images and small kindnesses. See you in the long run.


  1. Thank you so much for this Tribute to my friend and sister Playmate Cynthia. I hope we can reach our financial goal and give her a final and fitting Tribute at her Memorial Service.

    Always and Forever,

    Victoria Valentino
    Miss September 1963
    One of the Top 100 Centerfolds of the Century

  2. Thank you for remembering a beautiful woman who had a terrible drinking problem and died senselessly. She is missed.
    Lynn Carey
    singer/songwriter, artist and poet
    AKA Mama Lion
    also actress and Penthouse Pet of the Month

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  4. Why did CM film career end? Did she remain in LA for the remainder of her life? I read several articles about her and Blodgett romance in newspaper archives.