Wrote and wrote and wrote and blathered on, and on, about scary movies on buzz.mn Monday; when it was done I jumped in the Element and drove to get pumpkins. The grocery store had bins and bins of perfect gourds, each going for a mere five bucks, and only a few had buboes or shingles or other cosmetic imperfections. I chose a fat one, a tall one, and a round one. Wheeled them into the store; paid up, then left by the entrance, by mistake. It occurred to me I could have loaded up the cart with pumpkins, pushed it around the store, then pushed it out the door without paying – but I’ve read too many crime blotters to know that people get busted daily at Cub for such things. Usually they’re charged with aggravated Meat Stuffing, and they have enough steak down their pants to feed the Greeks at the Hot Gates, but still.
Went to a coffee shop for one of those giant mugs of coffee destined to taste like tepid oily brackish water strained from a goatherd’s sock by the time you get halfway through, and ordered a giant mug of coffee. Hope springing eternal, etc. Wrote some stuff for buzz, posted, then relaxed a bit. Stepped outside, and decided to start a new web project: shooting all the mid-70s stuff still remaining in the Twin Cities using the new Helga filter on the iPhone. It makes everything look like a faded photo shot in 1974. Like this:
Got home, checked the web –
Damn. Damn damn damn. Dean Barnett died. He wasn’t supposed to do that. It’s always the maudlin thing to imagine meeting your friends in the Hereafter, crafting their introductory lines, but it’s no stretch to say he’d greet everyone saying I told you I had a fatal disease! It was the title of my book, fer heaven’s sake. I never met him, but we’d done bits together on the Hewitt show, and I’d read his work. I figured we’d meet some day and have a grand time; he was one of those fellows who love of life and generous spirit were as broad as his Boston vowels. He seemed voraciously happy.
He fell ill on the air, sitting in for Hugh, and never recovered. Cystic Fibrosis was patient with him – a cruelty for Dean, you’d think, since knowing you had spoken longer than your time on stage, and the band was ready to strike up your exit music – well, it might make some babble, might make some fall silent and glare at the audience in the dark with resentment, and it might make some start some great grand operatic windup to make the period to your sentence seem all the more profound. But he just kept talking about today and this afternoon and tomorrow morning and the day after that. At some point you stop checking your messages to see if Death’s called to reschedule. We’ve all had a taste of what that’s like – the plane’s late, the rest of your dinner party’s stuck in traffic, the deadline’s lifted, and you relax and unwind and expand and enjoy. It seems he lived his life in that fashion every day, and if there was a chill in the room it didn’t mean the tall guy with the long scythe had shown up. It was probably friends, overdue; turn around and smile and stand and pull out a chair.
And when it was the tall guy, he pulled out the chair anyway.
I will miss what he has to say about the election, of course, and what he has to say about the events to come. Election night without his input will be like shave-and-a-haircut; makes you want to set up a Ouiji board so he can tap out Two Bits.
You know what’s odd? I have no idea what he looked like. I have an idea, but it’s probably wrong. Again with the saccharine notion of the afterlife with the clouds and the wings and the harp: Dean walks up behind people and shouts “CHOWDAH,” and we know right away who it is. Whoever is standing there when we turn around, that’s him. The plucky smart kid with the fatal disease.
I’ve been hearing his voice in my head all night, frankly. Hard to forget. Why would you?
This week’s black and white movie – a weekly enterprise completely separate from 100 Mysteries, except that I have no idea why I’m doing either one – is “Female.”
It’s a short little “women’s film” from pre-code days. Before the Hays Office instituted official bluenosery on the wild lascivious products of Hollywood, they got away with much more sinnuendo and amorality. Blame the 20s, if you wish; morals were famously loosened, what with the short hair and public smoking and vampy women. Blame the 30s, if you like; when the good times ended people wanted chivalrous crooks and dames what knew all the angles. This one intrigued me because the heroine owned an automobile company, and I don’t mean she had it in her name because she was a gold-digger whose got-rocks sugar pops died of a love attack one night, and she inherited the business. I mean she was the CEO. She ran the company in her brusque, no-nonsense style. A real sphere-breaker, this one – and to compound the insult to the male ego, she’d occasionally drift through the drafting rooms, find some hunky inker, invite him up to the house for servicing, then transfer him to a branch office if he actually took any of it seriously.
Racy! Here’s something that caught my eye. She’s invited one of the pony-boys over for a midnight swim, followed by Vodka. (It’s discussed as an almost exotic drink in the movie; they have to explain what it is on a few occasoions.) She has a special remote control she presses when the time is right for lover boy to get sauced up on the Russian stuff – and it’s keyed to her location, too. She presses the button in the library, a LIBRARY button lights up in the servants quarters, and they get out the potato juice. Anyway: this shot made me pause.
That may seem familiar. The bricks, I mean. Those are famous bricks. I rewould the movie to see if there was something I missed – and yes, I don’t watch every frame; if it’s a talky pic, I do work on one monitor while the movie plays on the other. Hello:
Let’s flip that around:
See it? Above the car? Yes, it’s the famous Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright, a house made of patterned concrete blocks – part of the very-short-lived Mayan revival. The interiors were used in “Blade Runner,” and several other films.
The swimming pool scene is a set, though – a set built for “Footlight Parade,” reused here. It wasn’t the only thing reused – the tune “Shanghai Lil,” plays through half the film, and I don’t know which movie used the song first. It’s always a bit odd when you remember that pop culture does not consist of hermetically sealed elements that don’t interact; it’s like learning that “As Time Goes By” was an old song by the time Dooley Wilson played it for Ilsa.
Anyway. The swimming pool is odd – note the stylized giraffe - either that or the foot of someone with a horrible skin disease. That was the 30s: even someone as sleek as a giraffe had to be stylized.
Note also the odd sculpture:
I just carved my hair and I can't do a thing with it! I can see that outside the Tombs, but who’d want it in their backyard? The interior of her house is most certainly not the Ennis:
Look in the center. Yes, it’s a suspended pipe organ:
The fellow played “Shanghai Lil” and nothing but. Minor key. Slow tempo. On a pipe organ. That was how the rich lived, or at least how people thought they did.
Here’s a clip – our heroine’s heart has melted, thanks to the smooth, devil-may-care stylings of a dashing industrial designer. He spars a little with the male secretary, who knows he’s been testing streamlined designs with the boss, so to speak; then there’s a strange phone conversation that seems improbably casual and out of character. Up to now she’s been all business, and it’s almost as if she forgets to act here: “Yep.” Then, after threats have been made: “Don't be late.” But that’s not why I put this up. There’s a juxtaposition of visuals and dialogue that seems amusing, that’s all. (Mouse over for controls, if not visible.)
If that’s a concern, hon, stay in the office. A least until the wind goes in the other direction.
New comic in the Comic Cover archive: Lo, the moons of Yavin! And of course buzz.mn, with some halloween kitsch later on. Have a grand day.